Biomimetic robots as neuroscientific models and therapeutic tools - Tony Prescott, Director of Sheffield Robotics



Biomimetics is the approach of abstracting principles from nature to assist in the understanding of living systems and the design of novel technologies. At Sheffield Robotics we are using a biomimetic approach to develop robots with brain-like control systems and we are applying this approach to both humanoid robots, such as the European iCub, and to new animal-like robots. The overall goals of the biomimetic approach are to create physical models for neuroscientific research and to develop life-like control systems for robots to be used as therapeutic tools. This talk will describe our approach to biomimetics which has evolved over twenty years of building mammal-like robots and that we are now applying to create a commercial animal-like robot, MiRo, for research, education and therapy. The talk will explore why robotic models of the brain are scientifically useful and how they might be applied in robot-assisted therapy, as well as uncover some of the ethical issues that arise in creating robots that mimic life.


Tony Prescott develops biomimetic robots that resemble animals, including humans. His goal is both to advance the understanding of biological life, and to create useful new technologies. Tony is full Professor of Cognitive Robotics at the University of Sheffield, UK, and the co-founder and current Director of Sheffield Robotics a cross-institutional robotics research institute with over two hundred active researchers. As a researcher he has published more than 200 international conference and journal papers in fields as diverse as robotics, AI, behavioural neuroscience and neuropsychology. With his collaborators he has developed the whiskered robots Scratchbot and Shrewbot and the companion robot pet MiRo. He is currently working to develop brain-like control systems for the iCub humanoid robot that will provide the robot with a “sense of self”. As the co-founder of the British start-up company Consequential Robotics he is also engaged in commercial projects to develop robots for applications in research, education, therapy and assisted living. He is also a partner in the European Union Human Brain Project and was recently funded by the Wellcome Trust to develop participatory design approaches for robotic technologies that enhance the lives of people with disabilities. His research has been covered by the major news media including the BBC, CNN, Sky TV, Discovery Channel, Science Magazine and New Scientist, he also regularly speaks on ethical and societal issues related to robotics and advanced AI technologies.

Host: Dr. Julie Robillard, Assistant Professor, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, UBC;