Team meetings will never be the same again for one work group who have taken on a humanoid staff member

A trainee office manager is set to begin a two month trial, but this is a new starter with a difference – because Betty is a ROBOT.

The unusual colleague is about to launch her new career at The Transport Systems Catapult, based in Milton Keynes thanks to a team from the University of Birmingham.

Betty will carry out tasks including patrolling the offices, assessing how many staff members are in the office outside working hours, monitoring the environment by collating data on clutter, office temperature, humidity and noise, as well as checking fire doors are closed and desks are clear.

She will also be tasked with greeting guests at reception.

Friendly Betty is a highly sophisticated robot, running artificial intelligence-driven software developed by an international research team led by the university.

 

This software enables her to process all the information she needs to map and navigate her environment, learning as she does so.

Betty the Robot at Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes
Betty is able to perform office functions like assessing how many staff members are present
Using cameras and scanners she is able to create a map of her surrounding area, identifying desks, chairs and other objects that she must negotiate when she is moving around, as well as detecting people’s movement through activity recognition.
Betty the Robot at Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes
Betty will be programmed to greet customers at the office reception
While Betty carries out her duties, she will also gather information about her surroundings and learn how the environment changes over time – for example, where people go within the office, where objects appear, whether doors are open or closed.
Betty the Robot at Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes
She will also be able to tell when she’s in need of a recharge – and head to her own docking station
And she’ll never run down – Betty knows when to return to the docking station to recharge her batteries.
Betty the Robot at Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes
Betty is part of a project from the Computer Science department at the University of Birmingham
Betty is part of the £7.2 million EU-funded STRANDS project where robots are learning how to act intelligently and independently in real-world environments while understanding 3D space and how this changes over time from milliseconds to months.
Dr Nick Hawes, from the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham and who leads the STRANDS project, said: “For robots to work alongside humans in normal work environments it is important that they are both robust enough to operate autonomously without expert help, and that they learn to adapt to their environments to improve their performance.
Betty the Robot at Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes
Betty starts a two month trial at the Milton Keynes company soon
“Betty demonstrates both these abilities in a real working environment: we expect her to operate for two months without expert input, whilst using cutting-edge AI techniques to increase her understanding of the world around her.”
Nick Hawes from University of Birmingham with Alan Nettleton at the company with Betty the Robot
Nick Hawes from University of Birmingham with Alan Nettleton at the company with Betty the Robot
TSC Chief Operating Officer Mark Ruddy commented: “We hope that we can learn from Betty as much as she can learn from us during her stay.”