University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has won a global award for home service robotics.

UTS Unleashed! has finished first in the @Home league of RoboCup2019.

The annual international competition involves challenges that require a high degree of social interaction and adaptive behaviours in different social situations.

It is the perfect test for The Magic Lab at UTS, where a core team of social robotics researchers have worked together for several years, developing the combination of experience and technical and interpersonal skills that successful teams need.

UTS was one of six teams in @Home exploring technologies to program a humanoid Pepper robot, from SoftBank Robotics.

Social robots are designed to show human social characteristics such as emotional expression, to conduct dialogue, to use and respond to natural human cues such as pointing, and to develop ‘social competencies’ - that elusive ability to intuitively respond to what people are communicating through both verbal and non-verbal activity.

Over four days UTS Unleashed! achieved high scores across all activities in the @Home league designed to test these characteristics:

  • Party Host: demonstrating hospitality by meeting and greeting guests and making introductions
  • Housekeeper: helping to clean up and take out rubbish
  • Restaurant: operating in an unfamiliar environment with unknown people. Unleashed! achieved the highest ever point score – 800 – for tasks which included successfully taking and fulfilling orders from three people.

“With our research focus on developing safe and secure robots for human-centric environments, we are looking for ways social robots operate and require not just the intelligence to optimise and perform physical tasks but to work with humans in reliable and enjoyable ways,” said Professor Mary Anne Williams.

Robots also need resilience to perform when needed.

“We need robots that can keep operating in the home even when there are networks outages or other issues beyond the ability of the average person to fix. So we need to apply our technical expertise and ensure that a robot can keep running even if it's being repaired remotely,” she said.

More details on the lab and robot are accessible here.