2012 SFU Burnaby Open House

May 01, 2012

Making life simpler, better and faster is the theory behind what Simon Fraser University’s Applied Sciences students and faculty researchers will showcase at the University’s May 26 Open House from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Burnaby campus.

Researchers like Richard Vaughan and his team explore human-robot interaction. They’re working to advance the autonomy of robots and other machines.

“The purpose of this work is to build life-like machines aimed at making society more efficient by enabling new kinds of industry, science and exploration,” says Vaughan, a professor in the school of computing science.

In Vaughan’s autonomy lab, visitors will see a variety of robot demos that illustrate the lab’s current research on human-robot interaction. One mobile robot will be charged with finding and following a human – then will estimate the human's skeleton pose for further interaction.

Researchers will also feature their small “Chatterbox” robots developed in the lab that can “see” with infrared eyes and use light and sound to communicate with humans. They will also show videos of unusual experiments in which people interact with groups of mobile robots using gestures.

Meanwhile, in the school of engineering science, first-year students will pit their Lego Mindstorm robots in battles against each other, while students working in professor Shahram Payandeh’s lab will demonstrate the techno-sport of robotic hockey.

Their small and skillful robots, designed to play on an air hockey table, are monitored by an overhead camera and move and shoot using wireless communication.

Researchers in Payandeh’s lab have also developed high-technology “haptic” devices, which utilize the sense of touch and allow users to interact with virtual objects.

Visitors to the lab will be able to try their hand at virtual surgery - feeling, for example, the force of a surgeon’s cut as they direct a scalpel on a computer screen.

The long-term goal, says Payandeh, is to develop an interactive model of the organ that looks and behaves like a real object, allowing surgeons to interact and train with the models as in real surgery before being exposed to the real patient.

And a group of students in SFU’s fledgling Mechatronics Systems Engineering program will show how their project literally takes flight.

Team GUARDIAN has produced robotic aircraft that are designed to fly autonomously and carry out tasks, such as automatic target recognition.

Tim Gjernes, one of the 11-member group’s founders, says the crafts’ capabilities could one day be used to monitor residual forest fires in difficult terrain and other situations.

In early May, the team took second place at a national contest in Southport, Manitoba. The team is busy refining the prototype for participation in their first international competition in Maryland in mid-June.

“Ideally we just watch the plane and it does everything from flying to identifying targets all on its own,” Gjernes says. “We’re not quite there yet but getting close.” The team will have one of its prototypes at the open house.

Visuals will be aplenty at the applied sciences exhibits. Others include displays of mind-controlled exoskeletons, power-aware android apps and a life-size Soma cube.

Richard Vaughan, 778.782.5811; vaughan@sfu.ca
Shahram Payandeh, 778.782.4290; shahram_payandeh@sfu.ca
Tim Gjernes, tag3@sfu.ca
Karen Lee, 778.782.8923; kla87@sfu.ca
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017; Marianne_Meadahl@sfu.ca

Photos: http://at.sfu.ca/hGRrDn
Team GUARDIAN: http://at.sfu.ca/eocpeP

(Lego Mindstorm): http://at.sfu.ca/xVgKQI
(Androids) http://at.sfu.ca/MPMaEn