A new company has been formed to bring next generation assistive and companion robots to market by combining University-developed robotics research with the best of British design.
Consequential Robotics has been co-founded by the award-winning designer Sebastian Conran, together with Professor Tony Prescott and Dr Ben Mitchinson from the University of Sheffield.
The company’s main focus will be to develop companion and assistive robotic systems that will enhance quality of life as people age.
From the University-side the company will build on 20 years of research developing robots that behave in a life-like way and that use control systems modelled on the brain.
The company’s first product, MiRO, a programmable companion robot that looks and behaves like a pet animal, will be launched at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm this week.
With dog-like features, MiRO has six ‘senses’ including touch sensitivity, light sensitivity, stereo eyesight and sharp hearing. The robot also uses a sonar sense, rather like bats and dolphins, to help navigate its surroundings. MiRO’s cliff sensors help to ensure that it does not fall off a table or down a flight of stairs.
Initially, MiRO will be marketed to robot researchers interested in developing future companion robots, and to universities doing research in robotics or offering training in robot programming.
The University of Sheffield is a shareholder in Consequential Robotics as well as intellectual property commercialisation business, IP Group plc and academic founders, Professor Tony Prescott and Dr Ben Mitchinson. This is also the first company to be spun-out of Sheffield Robotics, an institute formed across both the Universities of Sheffield, of which Professor Prescott is the current director.
Professor Tony Prescott says: “Consequential Robotics builds on a scientific approach to robot design that we have been developing in Sheffield for more than two decades and that is based on our understanding natural intelligence in animals and people. We use ideas from psychology and neuroscience to help design future robots to be more useful and more life-like.”
“MiRO, our first product, is a step towards developing companion robots – the future robots that will share our personal spaces, provide entertainment and social interaction, and enhance our quality of life.”
Sebastian Conran says: “At the heart of our approach is human-centered design – understanding the practical needs of our users as well as their emotional wants and dreams. I’m excited to develop new technologies and products with Professor Prescott and his team.”
Aidong Xu, director of new business and partnerships at IP Group, says: “Consequential Robotics addresses one of the fast growing emerging markets – companion and assistive robotics, thanks to its unique capability of combining world-leading psychology research with renowned award-winning design. As the University of Sheffield’s IP commercialisation partner, IP Group is very excited to be on board to support the development of the business to help realise its full potential.”