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British robotics mission seeks cooperation with Taiwan

British robotics mission seeks cooperation with Taiwan

A visiting British professor of cognitive neuroscience said in Taipei Tuesday that Taiwan and the United Kingdom can together explore cooperation opportunities in the field of developing and building assistance robots.

Tony Prescott, director of the Sheffield Centre for Robotics and professor at the University of Sheffield, is a member of the U.K. robotics and autonomous systems mission, which is on a Nov. 19-24 visit to Taiwan aimed at sharing the current conditions of Britain's robotics and automation industry and seeking bilateral collaboration opportunities.

In a meeting with local media, Prescott said that there are many British organizations focusing on research into deep learning -- a branch of machine learning -- and that many startups in the U.K. have been working with Google in the field.

The U.K. has a long history in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), and the British government has been sparing no efforts in integrating AI research around the U.K., he said.

In terms of future AI applications, Prescott said, his country will focus on applications in the fields of medical treatment and language identification.

Compared with Japan's efforts in developing and building human-shaped robots, the U.K. mainly concentrates on the development of robots for specific purposes, such as those operating on farmland and underwater, or serving as air reconnaissance, he noted.

Aside from designing new generations of robots for the manufacturing industry, the U.K. has also developed a prototype of intelligent human-shaped robots, Prescott said.

Another mission delegate, Sebastian Conran, design director of Consequential Robotics Ltd. and CEO of Sebastian Conran Associates, said he anticipates that human-shaped autonomous systems will commonly exist in the everyday lives of humans in the next 50 years.

However, he believes that like nuclear power, AI can be misused, causing disasters in the world. It has been estimated that the energy a human-shaped robot requires for walking is 30 times more than that needed for a wheelchair-type robot, Conran said.

Both Prescott and Conran share the opinion that government investment and international cooperation are important for the development of both the British robotics industry and Taiwan's.

During the press event, Soong Kai-tai, a professor at the Institute of Electrical Control Engineering of Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University, suggested that chip makers in Taiwan's information communication technology (ICT) industry could switch their domain to the supply chain of robots and autonomous systems.

Taiwanese ICT talent could find a future in the field of developing and building service robots, Soong said, urging local ICT businesses to cross over to robot territory as soon as possible.

Soong is also a managing supervisor of the Taiwan Automation Intelligence and Robotics Association.

On Nov. 19, the U.K. delegates attended the International Automatic Control Conference (CACS 2015) in Yilan County, presenting the overall U.K. perspectives on Robotics and Autonomous Systems and introducing recent research developments in the U.K. to local academia and officials at a U.K. Taiwan Robotics workshop, according to a news release from the British Office Taipei.

According to the office, the global market for industrial robotics is currently worth over US$25 billion and is forecast to reach US$37 billion by 2018, while the market for professional service robots will increase from US$3.4 billion to US$17.1 billion by 2016.

Both the British government and industry have invested more than 150 million pounds (US$227 million) to support cutting-edge research and projects at U.K. universities and companies into the development and application of robotics and autonomous systems, the office said.

"The U.K.'s world-class strengths in the ICT sector, particularly in software programming, data handling and electronics, means that it offers an ideal business and research environment for leading international autonomous systems and robotics companies," the office said.

"This is the first scoping mission to Taiwan from the U.K. robotics and autonomous systems industries, and the British Office will support further bilateral exchanges in this field in the future," the news release said.

The British Office represents U.K. interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Updated : 2021-09-27 14:54 GMT+08:00