Dr Nicolas Rojas
Five minutes with Dr Nicolas Rojas, Lecturer, Dyson School of Design Engineering
1. Tell us about your research in a nutshell.
My area of research is robotic manipulation.
My quest is to discover how to surpass the manipulation capabilities observed in nature under all conditions. To this end, I investigate which robotic systems can possibly be built from relaxing the usual, hidden assumptions employed in robot design such as those related to anthropomorphism.
The aim of my work is to develop novel, divergent robotic manipulators, hands, and grippers able to operate under high levels of diversity and uncertainty. The difficulty is achieving this flexibility without increasing the complexity of the systems.
2. What impact could your research have for our industry partners?
Advances in my area of robotics are important to tackle some of the most important economic and societal challenges that the UK and other advanced economies face in this century. Two examples are:- The limited productivity of producers and manufacturers, in particular SMEs
- The increasing demand for care services as a result of societal ageing
The solution to both of these challenges, and many more, requires robots that cooperate with humans to manipulate objects in dynamic and unstructured environments.
Moreover, the success of my research may contribute to the creation of new technological companies, beyond those based or focused mainly on communication and information technology services, which are able to generate value and employment from novel robot hardware, from manipulators to end-effectors, useful for general-purpose or specialised applications in industry and research.
3. What's interesting you most about your field at the moment?
Nowadays, we need robots that collaborate with us, not just in manufacturing cells, but in other areas where dealing with uncertainty is inevitable. This opens the door to innovations in both robot design and robot control that go beyond established approaches."
That robots are now required to manipulate objects out of the cage!
For decades, robots were confined to industrial, structured settings with limited contact with humans. The characteristics of these environments were well known in advance and so solving manipulation problems within the multitude of constraints was relatively easy. Nowadays, we need robots that collaborate with us, not just in manufacturing cells, but in other areas where dealing with uncertainty is inevitable. This opens the door to innovations in both robot design and robot control that go beyond established approaches.
4. Who/what sectors would be interested in hearing more about your research?
Given the nature and objectives of my research, multiple market domains can benefit from its progress and the approach taken. In particular:
- Manufacturing industries - especially regarding the automation of small batches or multitude products
- Healthcare innovators - especially those concerned with providing efficient assistive help to carers and patients
- Farming companies - especially those looking for advances in harvesting technology of delicate crops
- Companies interested in the development of new products and industrial systems