Professor discusses robot development at the University

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Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

In discussing the future of robots Wednesday, Luis Sentis, mechanical engineering assistant professor, said the University will have an important role for research in the area of robotics. 

“Texas and Austin are a very important hub for technologies, competitions in high-tech and for robotics,” Sentis said. 

“Dreamer,” a robot developed by Sentis and the University’s Human Centered Robotics lab, held up the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign and waved hello to attendees of the lecture, held in the Jackson Geological Sciences Building and hosted by UT Libraries as part of its “Science Study Breaks” series. The talk featured movie clips with robots from movies such as “Pacific Rim” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” both of which featured Dreamer. 

Sentis talked about working with the lab to create a robot that would eventually help those with disabilities. 

Travis Llado, a research assistant for the lab, said they hope to have a wheelbase operating in the next few weeks that would allow Dreamer to move on various surfaces. 

“We have a wheelbase that carries Dreamer around, but it can’t move on any surfaces beyond linoleum,” Llado said. “So we wanted one that could go off road.”

Kwan Suk Kim, mechanical engineering graduate student, has also been involved in the lab.

“Actually, nowadays, a lot of people are worried about the safety of robots,” Kim said. “Specifically, we’re focusing on the safety issue of robots.”

Kim said they are continuing to work on Dreamer as more labs on campus improve further robot technology. Sentis said he worked with Honda to develop robots that can mimic human actions. Sentis said these robots could assist in daily activities for humans.

“These robots can work as service and industrial mobile workers,” Sentis said. “They can do assembly, welding and painting.”

Along with their potential for helping people with disabilities, Sentis said researchers would like to make robots more safe and cost-effective.

“They’re also being realistic about the costs of robotics,” Sentis said.

According to Sentis, the implementation of robots in assembly lines would lead to job loss.

“Robotics will eliminate human labor in some applications by 2030,” Sentis said.

Sentis said he hopes to see robots eventually implemented into various activities for many people.

“We’re trying to blend them into our daily lives,” Sentis said. “We can sort of simulate all the possible outcomes for people with disabilities.”