Meet the Team: OSU Personal Robotics Group

Bill Smart, head of the OSU Personal Robotics Group team, explains how their self-driving wheelchair will give dignity and independence to wheelchair users

Self Driving Wheelchair


How does your self-driving wheelchair work?
We’ve developed a kit you can add to a standard power wheelchair. The kit comprises a couple of sensors – laser range-finders – a computer and other electronics. Using the sensors, the chair can build a map of the environment and show it to the user, who then selects a place to go. The chair then decides how best to get there, and drives to that point.

What impact could your invention have for people and society?
We can dramatically improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world with this technology.
Many people in powered wheelchairs, especially those with very limited ability to move, rely on other people to drive them around. Even if they have some ability to drive themselves – by using eye-gaze and a computer interface for example – this is a slow, laborious process. It ties up their eyes, which they also use to generate speech with an assistive device. This means that when they are driving they can’t do anything else: they can’t “talk” or even look up.  They must focus on the driving interface.
Our system gives back independence and dignity to these people, allowing them to look at their surroundings and interact with others as they move about. Since the chair knows where it is, we can also make the interfaces that wheelchair users use to control their environment (the lights, TV, for instance) simpler, only showing them the controls for the devices that are physically close to them, making the devices much easier to use.

What aspects of the project are you working to improve in time for the finals?
The trickiest part of the development so far has been getting the robotic package to interact with the wheelchair and make it move around. The wheelchair is not designed to be controlled by a computer.
We’re currently working to improve the navigation of the chair and make sure it works outdoors. Up to now, all of our testing has been indoors. As the competition final is outdoors, that has been a bit of a challenge for us. 

What field trials have you done so far?
We’ve been testing some of the technology, although not self-driving, on a wheelchair used by a person with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or motor neurone disease). He’s been using the technology for about five months. The main results have been a proof of concept of the simplified interface to devices and a much better understanding of how to make a system like this work for real, without a team of graduate students around to fix it every day. 

If you won the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good, what would you do next?
If we win, then the award will fund the remaining development, testing and deployment of our system. We’re hoping to release the plans under an open-source licence and to help people build it and install it on their own chairs. The award would also help us to get the word out to the community of full-time power wheelchair users, and support people who can’t afford the full cost of the system themselves.


Tally Robot

The next retail revolution may not be a hot new brand or cool new concept store. Instead, consumers may soon be coming face to face with robotic retailers as technology that was once confined to the warehouse gradually puts on a friendlier face and moves to front-of-house.

US retail giant Best Buy has been trialling a one-armed robot nicknamed Chloe. Working in much the same way as a giant vending machine, customers interact with Chloe via touchscreen catalogues and instructions to order and pay for items. Once a selection is made Chloe zips off to pluck it from a shelf and hand it over through a chute.

While it’s not likely to work for impulse purchases or customers who fancy a browse around, Chloe can handle dozens of customers at a time if they know what they are looking for. The set up also means stock takes up less space since there is no need for customers to be able to pass by things or have them within reach, plus Chloe works 24/7, without a break. For retailers of small durable goods, this could point to a future of much lower floor space and staff costs.

More conventional retail environments could be set to benefit from robot technology too. A mobile machine called Tally from technology start-up Simbe is eliminating the most boring job in retail: the stocktake.

Tally can navigate its way around the aisles, counting as it goes. By identifying gaps in the shelves and spotting when items are running low, it can help retail staff stay on top of the shelf stacking and make sure the customer can get what they need. It can also pick up on when something is in the wrong spot, or has been mispriced.

While the technology is still in development, with functions to be added and refined, both Tally and Chloe point the way to a more automated retail future.


Press Release
  • National and International competitions receive successful semi-final entries from UAE, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Spain
  • Award to help overcome existing challenges in categories of health, education and social services
  • Innovations in artificial intelligence and robotics sectors designed to serve humanity
  • Big Data and Internet of Things emerge key tools in the development of several projects

Dubai, January 18, 2016: The Organizing Committee of the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good has announced that 20 contestants have qualified to the semi-finals stage of the National and International competitions of the award, which offers a total prize money of AED 4.67 million (US$1 million for International Competition and AED 1 million for National Competition) to the winners.

The successful entries to the semi-final stage of the UAE AI & Robotics Award have come from all parts of the world, including the UAE, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Spain. The award aims to encourage research and applications of innovative solutions in artificial intelligence and robotics to meet existing challenges in the categories of health, education and social services.

Saif Al Aleeli, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation and Coordinator General of the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good, said the award involves robotics projects designed to serve humanity. He said 20 innovative projects have qualified to the semi-finals stage out of 664 submissions from 121 countries around the world, reflecting the global impact of the award in its first edition.

He pointed out that the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good is different from other awards in the world in two main aspects. Firstly, it focuses on the practical side of robotics technology making it easier for the public and investors in the sector to identify the economic and social values of these projects in order to transform them into services and commercial projects. The submissions covered a wide range of applications on the micro level, including devices that can be implantable inside the human body, as well as big-size applications.

Secondly, the award focuses on artificial intelligence, which plays a major role in transforming robots from mere technical tools for routine tasks into smart tools capable of making decisions and dealing with complex situations.

Al Aleeli added said that one of the main objectives of the award is to make people aware of the potentials of the robotics sector. He also said the award will be expanded in the coming editions in terms of target sectors and participation, aiming for more diversity to establish a global movement that promotes this modern technology to empower people and improve their lives.

International Competition – Semi-finalists:

HERMES robots offer effective solution in disaster management – USA

Among the semi-finalists, team MITBRL from the United States has developed the HERMES (Highly Efficient Robotic Mechanisms and Electromechanical System) robots which can enter areas that are too dangerous for humans, offering an effective solution in disaster management.

“In its commercial phase, we imagine that the robots will cut costs by handling dangerous tasks that are otherwise impossible to accomplish. In addition, this technology also reduces the risk of injury to emergency first responders,” said Albert Wang of MITBRL team.

Stressing the urgency to bring these technologies to market, Wang said that both the first customers and the likely first investment will be from governmental organizations that oversee disaster response operations.

“We are very excited to see government initiatives for the use of robotics to improve people’s lives. Awards such as this one stimulate growth and inspire talented individuals to work on difficult problems,” Wang added.

Autonomous Soft Tissue Robotic Surgery for improved safety – USA

A team from the United States has come up with an ‘Autonomous Soft Tissue Robotic Surgery’ system offering improved safety, access, and outcome.

Peter Kim from the team said: “We have recently successfully developed and tested a robotic system includes a 3D multispectral imaging system that can detect and differentiate tissue types and organs; a novel system that allows robust 3D tracking of soft tissue targets immune to blood and tissue occlusions. A robotic manipulator with real-time control, capable of adapting to tissue deformations and movement is used to finely apply and tie sutures. These components make the system modular and well-suited to automate any phase of a soft tissue surgery. It has the ability to distinguish between tissue features, quantify and track 3D targets in a messy surgical environment, and intelligently plan and adapt while controlling surgical tools more precisely than a human surgeon.”

Peter added: “Our recent success in automating complex surgical tasks has motivated our team to believe that all surgery can be potentially automated in the future. Such automation would bring improved quality, safety and accessibility of the best techniques to all patients around the world.”

TechBridgeWorld robots make learning Braille simple and fun – USA

TechBridgeWorld team from the United States has come up with the Braille Tutor robot that allows users to learn how to write, practice writing, and be quizzed on letters, words, and numbers.

“These educational modes were designed based on best practices of the teachers we worked with and were intended to make the Braille writing learning process simple and fun, said Ermine Teves of the TechBridgeWorld team.

“The TechBridgeWorld research group at Carnegie Mellon University aims to bridge the gap between  visually impaired individuals and rapidly changing technology by collaborating with partner organizations around the world. By focusing on the slate-and-stylus method, our Braille Writing Tutor and Stand-Alone Braille Writing Tutor devices serve an unmet need of guided Braille writing practice in the developing world,” Ermine said.

The project is supported in part by the Qatar National Research, the Fetzer Institute as well as several other partners from around the world, Ermine said.

“To make the Braille Tutor affordable to various communities, we are considering a cross subsidy model. For communities that can afford such resources, we plan to offer Braille Tutor devices with other enhancements relevant to their needs, said Ermine.

The project prototypes have been designed to withstand handling by students. Furthermore, they are designed to be used in environments with unpredictable, intermittent, or no access to grid power. Future research includes developing a sturdy and child-friendly case for the devices.

Commending the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good, Ermine said: “It is great that the UAE is offering such a fantastic opportunity as well as emphasizing the importance of utilizing AI and robotics technology to improve people’s lives.”

Mars Lab enhances STEM education – Australia

The Mars Lab team from Australia aims to promote participation rates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by primary and high school students by providing them with an immersive and realistic STEM-rich experience in the form of a robotic planetary exploration mission looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

“Currently, there is a huge shortage of people with expertise in STEM related industries all over the world. Encouraging participation in STEM learning amongst young people is critical in ensuring that we address these shortages. STEM professionals will be the ones that solve the big problems that humanity will encounter over the next century such as climate change, food supply, disease mitigation, and basic infrastructure accessibility,” said Muhammad Esa Attia from the Mars Lab team.

the Mars Lab cuts resource and travel costs for schools while still providing a state of the art STEM education experience as the students do not have to leave their school to take part in the activity, said Muhammad.

Describing robotics and artificial intelligence as critical areas in future development, Muhammed said the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good initiative by the UAE is commendable and is evidence of a nation embracing innovation.

Exoskeletons to help children with neurological disorders – USA

UCB&SuitX team from the United States have devised Affordable Exoskeletons for Children with Neurological Disorders that quickly promotes walking skills among children. In this direction, SuitX and UC Berkeley intend  to  develop low-cost  consumer  products  for  rehabilitation  centres,  particularly  in developing countries.

“Our goal in this proposal is not to make a profit; our passion drives this project. With the funding from this award we will not only conduct research to identify and create the basic principles for the development of exoskeletons for children, but also we will donate 10 exoskeletons to rehabilitation centers worldwide.  We have already received initial funding from National Science Foundation in US government and private investors,” said Homayoon Kazerooni of UCB&SuitX team.

“We believe the project cost would be about US$5 million. While the cost of the technology itself might be higher than available methods, we believe that with our device, children will learn to walk and walking is priceless! This can change the entire future of the child. In the longer term, it will reduce the cost of care of the child even into adulthood, which will reduce the cost on the family and society in general,” Homayoon said.

The UCB&SuitX team stated that they faced two significant challenges. Firstly, the size of actuators should be light and low cost, but provide sufficient power for an active child. The team ended up making its own actuators with a very small profile and weight. Secondly, they said the Intelligent Control Algorithms must be smart to accommodate a child’s implicit command with list amount of hardware, and the team has made a great deal of progress in this area.

The UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good initiative displays the existence of sympathetic leaders in the Middle East with a deep understanding, respect and generosity for the future of our children worldwide. It will also encourage development of AI and Robotics leading to a dramatic improvement in the quality of life all around the world, Homayoon said.

Makeroni Labs robots use eye-tracking technology to perform tasks – Spain

Makeroni Labs team from Spain has come up with their Eye of Horus project which offers support for physically handicapped people with their tasks. The system combines eye tracking with a frontal camera to know where you are looking. The target devices are identified using light beacons, similar to LiFi technology, and controlled with wireless protocols.

“We want to integrate humans in the new era of Internet of Things and smart cities. We want control everything with a simple eye movement. We want to monitor the state of your eye in order to monitor your health,” said Luis Antonio Martin Nuez.

The team said while their device can help people with functional diversity or those who cannot perform tasks due to reduced mobility, it is also useful for drivers as with its help they can interact with the radio or car phone with both hands on the wheel. The device has potential use in entertainment and can be used as an eye-controlled mouse to play video games and position the targets just looking at them.

Luis said the project would help reduce costs by 80 per cent compared with the costs involved in a total home automation system to help disabled individuals.

Currently the team is collaborating with several Spanish companies for the development of the device, and is hopeful that many other companies would come forward to work with it to interconnect the technology to many other devices.

Dytective intelligence system helps detect dyslexia – USA

The Dytective team from the United States has developed an artificial intelligence system to detect dyslexia in individuals and help them overcome it by using scientifically validated computer games.

Luz Rello from the Dytective team said their system would make dyslexia detection up to 90 per cent cheaper than currently prevailing rates. Besides, it can easily be accessed from anywhere in the world, even in areas which do not have any dyslexia experts. It will be available worldwide making all the related costs  – transport, facilities, expensive equipment, etc. – extremely cheaper and sustainable, Luz said, adding that Dytective is keen partner with strong organizations which are keen to make an impact in education through technology.

“Initiatives such as the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good will contribute to making a better world in which everybody, regardless of their income, political situations and geographical location will be able to make use of 21st century technology,” Luz added.

Low-Cost Robotic Leg Automates Stroke Rehabilitation – USA

AndrosRobotics team from the United States has come up with Robotic Leg Advancement Device (R-LAD), a battery-powered, computer controlled robotic system, which rides atop a small wheeled frame and helps the patient move his legs as they are re-learning to walk.

“The R-LAD is not an assistive device, but a therapeutic one; it is meant to be used by a physical therapist, to help them administer therapy to a patient in the clinical setting.  We envision that the R-LAD will be used with several patients every day, in therapy sessions which last between 30 minutes and one hour,” said Maciej Pietrusinski from the Andros Robotics team.

The R-LAD has so far been developed with funds from the US National Science Foundation involving US$ 290,000 to date, and with funds from its industrial partner, a private company operating in the physical medicine and rehabilitation industry.  Maciej expects that the product development will take another 18-24 months and several hundred thousand US dollars but aims to offer the device for sale for between US$15,000 and US$20,000.

The safety of the patient and the therapist using the R-LAD is ensured in a number of ways.  The R-LAD rides atop a wheeled frame, which also supports the patient to make walking easier and to prevent falls. In addition, the drive mechanism is designed with mechanical travel stops.  Finally, the control system limits the forces generated, to ensure safety, Maciej said, adding that the biggest challenge in developing the R-LAD in the early phase was the unsteady and sporadic funding.

The UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good competition aims to reward the focus on improving peoples’ lives, which is a very worthy cause for the UAE to take up, said Maciej.

Moley brings robotics to the kitchen – UK

The Moley Robotic Kitchen from the United Kingdom has created a fully integrated automated kitchen, designed for regular homes, that cooks with the skill and flair of a human chef.

Comprising kitchen cabinetry, robotic arms, motion capture system and full set of kitchen equipment and appliances, the Robotic Kitchen replicates the a chef’s hand movements to create a variety of delicious and healthy dishes prepared as per world class standards.

“Set to go on sale in 2018, the robotic kitchen will not only create a paradigm shift in the use of robots in the home, it will have a major impact on health and wellbeing. Users will now be able to enjoy freshly cooked meals every day, with less effort than it takes to reheat a mass-produced ‘ready meal’ or order takeaway for delivery,” said Mark Oleynik from the team.

Targeted at consumers with a passion for food and limited cooking ability, and busy individuals who do not have the time to cook, the Moley Robotic Kitchen could also be a practical home assistant for the health conscious individual, the elderly and disabled, providing fresh food for those with special dietary requirements.

The Moley architecture provides safety with a protective, transparent screen that closes when the automatic mode is activated. This completely isolates the robotic components and seals potentially dangerous operations from the rest of the home. The second feature is an integrated fire suppression system that will automatically suppress any unwanted combustion within the Kitchen enclosure.

Moley Robotic Kitchen is designed to be a mass-market proposition. By 2021, three years after launch, it will be sold for $35,000 – comparable to average sums spent on kitchen refurbishment. This creates a potential market of 5.95 million homes in 17 countries. The modular kitchens will be sold around the world through a series of dealerships and flagship stores, Mark said.

KATIA robotic arm performs routine tasks cost-effectively – USA

The Carbon Robotics team from the United States has built KATIA, a low-cost robotic arm that has the capabilities of an industrial robot, but comes at the price of laptop. Besides, it is powered by the team’s open platform that lets software developers create new types of robotic applications.

“Robotic arms are the perfect tools to enable people to regain their independence. The problem is that they are prohibitively expensive and often difficult to use. The cheapest robotic arms today cost more than $20,000 and generally require specialized knowledge to perform anything beyond the most basic tasks. As a result, they are out of reach for most people. That’s why we made KATIA, which can be mounted to an electric wheelchair to serve as a virtual prosthetic arm or attached to stations and operated remotely,” said Rosanna Myers of the Carbon Robotics team.

KATIA can pick items off the floor, assist in personal grooming, and perform any number of tasks that would normally require a caregiver. The arm is simple and intuitive to control, regardless of the user’s physical capabilities. Importantly, it is safe enough to have around the home, said Rosanna.

Rosanna said KATIA is 10 times cheaper than the closest competitor on the market, without taking into account its gains from faster setup times, open software, and eliminating the need to hire specialists.

The UAE is really taking a leadership role in advancing robotics and the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good competition will actively foster collaborative communities, said Rosanna.

Self-Driving Wheelchair for People with Severe Motor Disabilities – USA

The OSU Personal Robotics Group from the United States has come up with the idea to adopt techniques from mobile robotics, such as autonomous navigation, to develop a ‘Self-Driving Wheelchair for People with Severe Motor Disabilities’. The project aims to support full-time wheelchair users, especially those with severe motor disabilities.

“People who use eye-gaze to communicate can only do one thing at a time, and controlling their chairs means that they have to stop doing everything else every time they move their chairs.  By giving the wheelchairs self-driving capabilities, we allow them to move about the world while doing other things: working, talking to people, and so on,” said William Smart from the OSU Personal Robotics Group.

“Our goal is to develop a low-cost (US$500) kit that can be easily added to common powered wheelchairs that will turn them into self-driving chairs.  We will open-source the designs, both hardware and software, for the kit, and hope to create a user community that shares modifications and improvements.  Everything will be based on the popular Robot Operating System (ROS) open-source software,” William said.

The robotic chair is equipped with well-tested navigation software and has a number of safety protocols built into it to stop it if there is a danger of collision, William said.

The OSU Personal Robotics Group found it a challenge to understand the needs of the wheelchair users and their caregivers, and they overcame this by working closely with a number of full-time wheelchair users, and fully integrating their ideas into the project.

“I am pleased to see the UAE sponsoring this award, and I am especially happy to see that it can support projects like ours which, although they have limited commercial potential, will be able to impact the lives of many, many people around the world,” William added.

National Competition – Semi-finalists:

Smart Guidance innovators provide assistance to the blind

The Smart Guidance System for the Blind, a project from the UAE, offers to independently assist the blind in avoiding obstacles, identifying places or objects and navigating from one place to another. It can detect obstacles in the blind’s direction within a distance of up to five metres with a variable frequency (1 to 4 Hz), and gently guide the blind around the obstacles using a combination of 5 vibrators.

The system is capable of   distinguishing between floor and obstacles, and describes to the blind using an audio system in conjunction with 2D printed codes, their current position and possible destinations and corresponding directions. It also identifies rooms, stairs, and elevators, etc.

Ahmad Ali from the team project team said the prototype project cost AED 4700 but the final product will be available in range of AED1500 to 3000.

“As final product, the blind should be able to wear the system assistant comfortable without experiencing overload weight and annoying sounds; just a few instructions when necessary. Gentle vibration is used for obstacle detection. Being the IR depth sensor in the head of the blind has benefit that it will alert the user about pendent or high obstacles,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad pointed out that low capital and absence of experts in specializations such as artificial intelligence were major challenges, but said he expected investments in the project from entities such as Khalifa Fund, Dubai Oasis Silicon, Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee and Akoun.

Ahmad said the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good will infuse an entrepreneurial mindset among the youth population and contribute to the economy of the UAE through innovative products and services.

Healthy Robotics develops efficient surgical tool manipulator

The Healthy Robotics team from the UAE has developed a novel compact robotic manipulator that has the ability to accurately and conveniently manipulate and to firmly “lock” in place special purpose surgical tools necessary for minimally invasive therapy.

The project, which involves an estimated cost of AED 25,000, is aimed at healthcare providers, doctors and surgeons, robotics specialists, mechanical engineering designers and mechanical/mechatronics engineering educational institutes.

Highlighting the safety aspects of the project, Basem Yousef of the team said the manipulator for surgical tools utilizes low power to operate and is equipped with back-drivability feature to allow safe and immediate interference of the surgeon/user in cases of emergency shutdowns or unexpected malfunctioning. Also, the robot can be used conveniently in three modes: manual, autonomous and semi-autonomous.

The team faced challenges in producing items with complex geometry parts but overcame them by utilizing top technology tools and the state-of-the art manufacturing and design equipment as well as 3D printers and 3D modeling software.

CoiCAM team offers easy diagnosis of colon cancer

The CoiCAM team from the UAE has offered the Spherical Capsule for Endoscopic Applications which has the ability to overcome the limitations of the current endoscopic capsules, providing a better, safer, and a more comfortable method of endoscopy while having a full visualizing field and controllable motion.

“This project aims to ease the process of diagnosis of colon cancer for the patients. It offers an easy process that will encourage the patients to do the early check-ups to prevent the cancer from spreading,” said Halima Al Naqbi from the CoiCAM team.

The Spherical Capsule for Endoscopic Applications project solves the limitations with the current endoscopic capsule in terms of visualization field and locomotion. This new revolution in technology will finally replace the traditional endoscopy method and can save costs for entities in the sector, said Halima.

“The UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good  is an opportunity for the public to change the society into a better place to live in. The decision makers in the UAE encourage and support the public, especially the youth, to take active participation in the scientific field,” Halima added.

CVD Helper comes to the aid of people with colour vision deficiency

The CVD Helper team from the UAE has developed a solution for people affected by colour vision deficiency, stating that colour blindness affects nearly 300 million people in the world.

“The solution we are making is a device that is hand worn in a form of a bracelet. By a gentle touch of an object, the device will identify the colour and name it out loud. It is also voice controlled and can be used privately by wearing a wireless headset,” said Judy Matar of CVD Helper team.

Involving just AED1000 in material costs, the project is completely safe and efficient and runs on a 3V battery that doesn’t harm the human body if short circuited, said Judy. The team is optimistic that the market will be ready to absorb the project since it is a unique and innovative idea.

“The UAE taking an initiative of launching an AI and robotics for good award is an act of encouragement of innovative solutions. This initiative is encouraging individuals and groups from all around UAE to develop innovative ideas and projects. Supporting innovation in such a way is crucial to support the youth to come up with new unique projects,” Judy added.

Brain Controlled Electric Wheelchair

The B Motion team from the UAE has developed a Brain-Controlled Electric Wheelchair, that employs non-invasive brain-computer interface based on electroencephalography (EEG) to detect user’s thoughts, feelings, and expressions and accordingly issue appropriate commands to the electric wheelchair motor controller.

The chair is primarily targeted at Quadriplegia patients, amputees and patients with spinal cord injuries, who cannot control a conventional wheelchair joystick but have a completely conscious and functioning brain.

Omar Mohammadi from B Motion said the team has so far been working with a limited budget of AED 15,000, including AED 10,000 for the electric wheelchair.

Highlighting the safety aspects, Omar said the system includes an artificial intelligence obstacle avoidance system armed with a camera and real time analysis processing unit. This system allows the wheelchair to automatically avoid collisions with obstacles that might appear suddenly.

“By participating in the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good, we hope to achieve the country’s goal of improving people’s lives,” said Omar.

RE-ACT ROBOT supports patients with neural diseases

The RE-ACT ROBOT team from the UAE has created a haptic robotic system that is capable of aiding patients with neural diseases such as strokes to regain their motor control function. According to the team, the system is cost-effective and easy to use, and can be deployed at home. Besides, it utilizes many off the shelf components to achieve its task and can easily be customized to suit the patient.

Putting the current prototype costs to around AED4000, Fahad Al Shaibani from the RE-ACT ROBOT team said their robotic system would replace expensive and complex neuro-rehabilitative devices that are currently used in hospitals. In addition, the system will support the users to undergo additional rehabilitation at home thus reducing expenditure on healthcare and hospital, Fahad said.

The RE-ACT system has been designed with multiple layers of safety. For the current prototype, that is used for the arm, five different safety mechanisms have been deployed across the hardware, software and electrical sides.

The RE-ACT team primarily faced challenges in integrating various levels of engineering to ensure smooth functioning in a safe and user-friendly manner, which they overcame through consultation with experts in the field, and by doing extensive research on the latest approaches in the field.

Fahad described the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good as a great initiative to awareness about the use of robotics in civilian applications. Additionally, it allows the members of society such as students and professors to think in an innovative way and to implement new ideas that can help humanity, Fahad added.

Intelligent bore well system ensures quality of water

The Intelligent Wells team from the UAE has come up with an intelligent bore well system that ensures supply of drinking water in rural areas. Called the WaterLoop, the system constantly monitors the quality and level of water and gathers real-time information that could be valuable for both water planning and direct water consumption.

“WaterLoop can sense a problem in the water and inform the authorities responsible for fixing it. This means that the number trips to check the well condition will be reduced and the investors will have direct access to the condition of the well. As a result, responding to broken wells will become faster and more efficient. The device will also be able to receive phone calls from people in rural areas to inform people if there is a blockage or contamination,” said Reem Al Junaibi from the Intelligent Wells team.

Highlighting the cost efficiency of the project, Reem said a single device installed on a well is expected to cost under US$ 300, adding that this constitutes an additional 3.4 per cent to the overall cost of building a well.

Reem said the main challenge in the project was its multi-disciplinary approach involving water sensing, data analytics and artificial intelligence. However, this project will move ‘water sensing’ to a new industry, or the ‘Internet of Things’, Reem pointed out.

“The UAE has taken a bold step towards realizing the potential of AI and Robotics from applications in developed nations to developing nations. Such technologies will play a vital role in solving some of the world’s most pressing issues such as climate change and access to clean water,” Reem added.

Mozo learning robot assists children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mozo team from the UAE has developed a learning robot specially designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Social Deficits and Communication Difficulties symptoms. Made in the form of a one-metre high soft teddy bear called Mozo, the attractive shape of the robot is highly effective on breaking barriers in order to motivate autistic children who have difficulty, shyness or discomfort in interacting with others or practicing social skills with strange people.

The Mozo team has stated that the affordable robot-assisted therapy tool can be used by autism therapists, educators and parents, and controlled through a simple user-friendly mobile application. The mobile application matches the needs of teaching social and communication interactions and provides users with an effective method of teaching skills that are of great challenge for children with ASD.

Reem Al Marzouqi from the Mozo team said the prototype has so far cost around AED 30,000 but the final product will not cost more than AED 7000.

Highlighting the safety aspects of the project, Reem said the robot has rechargeable power banks coated by a thermal insulator. Besides, it has not shown any side effects on children’s behaviour but rather improved their social skills.

Reem said Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs and the UAEU have expressed interest in supporting the project.

Artificial intelligence to enhance skill acquisition of athletes

The Skills Acquisition team from the UAE has come up with a project that aims to enhance skill acquisition process for athletes, particularly decreasing the time of motor skill learning by introducing a bio-based teaching signal abstracted from professional athletes.

At this stage of the project, its teaching signals are muscles activations patterns abstracted from a professional athlete using Electromyography (EMG). These signals are collected and processed in a workstation and then projected on the muscles of the trainee through specific network of muscles stimulators.

Aimed at athletes, coaches, clubs, health authorities and private rehabilitation centres, the project in its prototype phase has cost the team about US$ 5000-7,000.

The team faced challenges in building the electrical circuits to accomplish human-machine interface but were able to overcome them through research and support from colleagues. However, a financial challenge still exists, and the prototype therefore is simple, said Fatima Hareb of the team.

The team is looking at support from investors in health and sports sector. “Those interested in horse and camel race can be considered in our list after the product development,” Fatima added.

The ‘UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good’ was launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, during the third Government Summit in February 2015, as one of the initiatives of International Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, which was formed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum during Global Agenda Council hosted by the UAE Government last year.

The Council includes thought leaders from some of the largest universities and the most important companies and institutions around the world. It aims to offer advice on the best ways to use robotics and artificial intelligence to improve human life and work on a global strategy for the use of robots in several key sectors.



2015 was the year selfies went high-tech. The seemingly ubiquitous desire people have to take pictures of themselves and film their daily adventures is fuelling an industry of increasingly sophisticated gadget makers.

For those serious about filming what they’re up to, but without the wherewithal to hire their own camera crew, tags, sensors and some clever engineering have enabled the creation of Soloshot.

It’s a beguilingly simple idea. Put a motor on a tripod to adjust the direction and elevation of a camera and connect that ability to a sensor tag. Whoever or whatever has the tag on it is what the camera tracks, up to a distance of about 600 metres. Package it with some nifty software and suddenly you have a camera crew in a small and very mobile package.

As with all such technology the pace of improvement keeps increasing as the devices get smaller and less power intensive. For example, Soloshot’s tag has shrunk 40 per cent in size from one iteration to the next.

Originally conceived as a way for surfers to film themselves the idea has expanded to other adventure-style sports, but could be readily adapted to more serious applications. Combine the technology with a suitable drone and filming from the air could automatically track emergency workers navigating a difficult environment, or simply trck the work of other drones.


Hamdan bin Mohammed: UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good a major step in positioning UAE globally in advanced technologies
UAE AI & Robotics Award
  • Award supports UAE policy to support science, technology and innovation to build knowledge based economy
  • Participating projects offer innovative services in education, health and social services using robotics and artificial intelligence
  • Health category leads with 34.84% of entries, followed by education with 15.48% 
  • UAE, US, Spain, UK, Italy, India, Australia, Russia and Canada constitute top countries with maximum number of entries
  • Huge participation from international universities such as MIT, Stanford, The University of Sydney, Carnegie Mellon University, Berkeley University, UAE University and Khalifa University


His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Executive Council, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation, said the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is focused on strengthening the position of the UAE in promising sectors through innovative initiatives, and described His Highness Sheikh Mohammed as a school that converts small ideas into big global initiatives.

“The UAE leadership aims to promote the economic model of the UAE, relying on minds and innovations rather than resources, through the launch of Higher Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation. We have to work hard in the coming period to strengthen the position of the UAE in promising technology sectors by attracting the best researchers and innovators as well as building strategic partnerships to develop our national talents,” His Highness Sheikh Hamdan said, adding that the UAE aims to enter the competitive race in these areas soon to make use of global leadership opportunities.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan said that the first edition of the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good has become a global platform of innovative ideas in this advanced field, which has been highlighted in global studies as an area of strategic importance for economies in view of its role in developing services in various sectors.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan stated this as the Organizing Committee of the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good announced the closing of the nomination period for the first edition of the event, which received 664 entries from 121 countries around the world.

His Excellency Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Managing Director of the Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation and Chairperson of the Organising Committee of the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good, said that the UAE is keen to adopt the latest advanced technologies to serve various segments of the society in all aspects that affect human lives.

HE Al Gergawi said: “The UAE government launched the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good during the Government Summit last February to achieve the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to enhance the status of the UAE as a global leader in the field of science and technology by adopting the culture of innovation and taking advantage of available technologies to improve human life in several key areas.”

HE Al Gergawi added that this award is a new initiative from the UAE government aimed at making use of the economic and scientific opportunities in the robotics and artificial intelligence sector, which has emerged as a significant part of the developed economies in various sectors such as health, education and space industry.

Stressing the importance of cooperative efforts in this area, HE Al Gergawi urged government entities, private sector companies, research and academic institutions to join hands in promoting this annual award as a platform to honour the most important innovations and practical models in the next generation of services using robotics and artificial intelligence.

According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, robotics and artificial intelligence sector will create an economic value of US$ 8 trillion by 2025, through its impact on different sectors. A Deloitte global index on confidence of private ownership investors in 2015 (Deloitte Private Equity Confidence Survey 2015) also indicates that the robotics and artificial intelligence sector is one of the top 10 sectors of global investment focus in the coming period.

The largest number of entries in the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good was received in the Health category. The following is the percentage of entries received in various categories of the award:  Civil Defence 5.16%, Construction 3.23%, Economy 0.56%, Education 15.48%, Environment 5.81%, Health 34.84%, Humanitarian Aid 3.87%, Logistics 1.29%, Social Services 8.39%, Tourism 1.94%, Transport 1.94% and Others 17.42%.

The maximum number of entries was received from the UAE, the US, Spain, the UK, Italy, India, Australia, Russia and Canada.  Huge participation was also witnessed from international universities such as MIT, Stanford, The University of Sydney, Carnegie Mellon University, Berkeley University, UAE University and Khalifa University.

The names of 10 applicants from each category who will be eligible to participate in the semi-finals of the International and National competitions will be announced soon by the Organising Committee. At this stage, the selected participants will get the opportunity to demonstrate their ideas in front of the panel of judges, which includes high-profile experts and specialists in robotics and artificial intelligence technologies.

The UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good will honour winners from universities, companies, professionals and individuals in the International Competition with US$ 1 million in prize money while winners in the National Competition will receive AED 1 million. The awards in both the competitions will be handed over at a special ceremony in February 2016 before the fourth Government Summit.

The award aims to encourage research and applications of robotics and artificial intelligence to meet existing challenges in three key sectors: health, education and social services. It will also promote public awareness on the positive applications of these technologies, and help turn innovative ideas into reality to contribute to the development of government services provided by the UAE Government.

The award offers all citizens and residents in the UAE the opportunity to participate individually or collectively in the competition. The UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good represents a unique initiative for the development of government services, highlighting the application of innovations to employ the latest technologies in robotics and artificial intelligence. The International Competition of the award is open to individuals, teams or companies from all around the world.

The competing projects must comply with safety standards and include new technologies. They must also be highly reliable and provide added value. Participants must suggest the type of services of their projects and additional technologies that will be required. For example, robotics can be used to help people with disabilities and health issues and encourage children in education. They can be useful in carrying out complicated and difficult tasks in areas such as firefighting, construction, social welfare and other areas of relevance to all members of the society.


Mobile robots have faced a challenge. Working outside of controlled environments, such as factories or warehouses, getting around can be tricky for a robot. Most commercially available kit either runs on fixed rails or comes equipped with combinations of wheels or tracks.

While there have been some very clever applications and adaptations allowing devices to get about pretty well, rough terrain and other difficult environments have remained pretty much out of bounds. What they really needed was legs.

The robotics team at the Italian Institute of Technology are the latest group to tackle the challenges of building a walking robot with the requisite level of robustness and appear to have had more success than some predecessors.

The HyQ2Max is a four-legged mechanical beast that has an animal like posture. It’s built tough too, so should be able to work in environments where falling objects could be a risk. Delicate parts such as sensors are protected by the structure of the body.

“Much like a cat or a goat that is very agile on rough terrain, this robot can in the future help in very unstructured environments, for example after an earthquake, after a tsunami or after a house has collapsed for other reasons,” said Claudio Semini, who is leading the research, speaking to Reuters.

Crucially, if the robot is knocked over, it can get back up on its feet, an ability which could significantly boost its potential for applications outside the research lab. Next on the research team’s wish list is a pair of arms, which will add the ability to manipulate objects to the robot’s skill set.


Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made a New Year’s resolution to build an AI robot that controls his house.

In previous years, he has shared his resolutions on Facebook, from the every day: ‘read two books a month’ to the challenging: ‘learn Mandarin’.

For 2016, he said he plans to build “a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work. You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man.”

According to a report on the BBC, Zuckerberg plans to share his progress over the course of the year and said he would teach his robot to understand his voice and control everything in his home from music and lights to temperature.

His early objectives are to automatically recognise house guests and to monitor his newborn daughter when he is not with her.

“This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself,” he said. Perhaps he may even develop something that could be entered into the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good?