17 November 2009

Australia’s leading researchers developing the next generation of intelligent systems and robots will come together at a symposium at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute today November 17 and tomorrow November 18.

The researchers are part of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Thinking Systems initiative, uniting 10 universities and two medical institutes to develop intelligent machines, robots and information systems for the future.

Supported by the ARC’s Special Research Initiatives funding scheme, UQ, The University of New South Wales and University of Western Sydney are each leading a collaborative project involving researchers with backgrounds in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, genetics, robotics, linguistics and information technology.

Team leader and cognitive scientist from UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering Professor Janet Wiles said the symposium would be the first time the Thinking Systems researchers had come together since starting the initiative in 2006.

“This symposium marks the halfway point in our research and is a great opportunity for the three Thinking Systems projects to showcase the work they’ve been doing,” Professor Wiles said.

“It’s also a chance for us to meet potential collaborators to further advance this new field of research.”

The symposium opens today at 9am with an address from Dr Liz Jazwinska, Executive Director of the Australian Research Council.

Over the course of the two days, each Thinking Systems project will have three hours to present an overview and highlights of their research, including question time.

Also on display during the symposium will be robotics demonstrations and posters outlining the research being undertaken in each project.

The presentations and poster sessions will take place in the Queensland Brain Institute’s Level 7 auditorium and terrace at UQ’s St Lucia campus.

Thinking Systems Projects: Thinking Systems: Navigating Through Real and Conceptual Spaces (led by The University of Queensland)
This project brings together a cross-disciplinary, collaborative and cross-institutional team to study fundamental issues in how information is transmitted, received, processed and understood in biological and artificial systems. At the core of the project is studying how brains understand spatial systems, both physical and conceptual. This integrated approach will lead to an increased understanding of neural, behavioural and information processing bases of thinking systems. Insights from neurocognitive systems will be used to develop computational models, autonomous robots and intelligent software agents which in turn will lead to deeper understanding of the relationship between neurocognitive mechanisms and their behaviour in whole systems.

The UQ-led team will present their findings to date today Tuesday starting at 9.30am. Robotics demonstrations and a poster session will take place between 1pm and 2.30pm.

Thinking Hand: Optimizing autonomous system control with brain-like hierarchical control systems (led by The University of New South Wales)
The ability of humans to manipulate objects with their hands permits a sophisticated interaction with the physical environment. The objective of this interdisciplinary research team is to develop a novel autonomous robotic hand control system using insights from the neurobiology of mammalian sensorimotor systems. This project involves human and animal neuroscience, computational modelling and robot hand implementation.

The UNSW-led team will present their research on Tuesday starting at 2.30pm with a poster session following at 6pm.

From Talking Heads to Thinking Heads: A Research Platform for Human Communication Science (led by University of Western Sydney)
In this project, current Talking Head technology will be taken into the realm of a high-fidelity Thinking Head, with implications and applications for basic and applied research. Outcomes will bear on human-machine communication, telecommunications, e-commerce, and mobile phone technology; personalised aids for disabled users, the hearing impaired, the elderly, and children with learning difficulties, foreign language learning; and will facilitate the development of animation in new media, film, and games.

The UWS-led team will present their findings on Wednesday morning starting at 8.30am with a poster session held between 12pm and 1.30pm.

Media Enquiries: Alice Walker at the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (a.walker1@uq.edu.au or (07) 3346 7696)