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“A robot in every home”: U of T expertise showcased at ACE

Aerial acrobatic demonstration by UTIAS Flight Systems & Control group

University of Toronto ingenuity in robotics, mechatronics and automation was on display at the sixth Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) last week.

The ACE event, hosted at University of Toronto on September 26 and 27, attracted almost 50 participants from governments in the Americas, as well as India, Israel, Germany and Korea. Among the speakers were Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, federal science minister Kirsty Duncan and U of T President Meric Gertler.

Read about President Gertler's thoughts on innovation

Read what Wynne, Duncan and Amon had to say about diversity and innovation 

U of T research projects were highlights at ACE. Engineering professors Goldie Nejat (MIE) and Tim Barfoot (UTIAS) joined Richard Zemel and Raquel Urtasun of the department of computer science, and Elissa Strome of the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform to discuss the intersection of machine learning, big data and robotics.

“Traditionally robots have been found in factories, where they do one job,” said Nejat. “We’re looking at bringing robots out of the factory and into people’s homes … by 2050, there will be a robot in every home.”

Nejat and her team demonstrated two of the assistive robots her lab is developing, Tangy and Casper to help aging populations manage daily tasks in the home and provide cognitive stimulation. Tangy led a group of graduate students in a game of BINGO, calling out the numbers, evaluating the winning card, and celebrating with the winner by playing music and congratulating him.

The ACE delegates then walked to the University of Toronto’s Back Campus field to take in an aerial robotics demonstration by Professor Hugh Liu from U of T's Institute for Aerospace Studies. Liu’s group debuted a new flight algorithm, in which 20 drones flew in perfect synchronization, forming a cube and rotating in midair.