Year/Course: 2020-2021, Easter 2021

Inventor: Dr. Fumiya Iida, Cambridge Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab, Engineering
Mentor: Kevin Gooding

The research interests of the Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab lie at the intersection of robotics and biology. Through abstraction of the design principles of biological systems, Dr. Iida’s team have developed core competences in the design and control of dynamic mechatronic systems, bionic sensor and actuator technologies, and computational optimization techniques. Their main goals are to contribute to a deeper understanding of adaptivity and autonomy of animals through the investigation of dynamic robots, and to engineer novel robotic applications which are more adaptive, maneuverable, resilient, and energy efficient.

Their current research focus is centered around “modeling of biological systems” (mathematical formulations of animals’ adaptive behaviors), “self-organization” (mechanisms to generate structures and patterns), and “component development” (development of unconventional enabling technologies such as sensors, motors, computation algorithms and assembling technologies).

A number of these technologies need to be brought together to develop effective food-handling robots. This includes agricultural applications such as crop-picking and packaging, as well as food preparation tasks which typically need a high degree of manual dexterity and rapid responsiveness.

There has been an increasing demand for automating food handling processes in factories, stores, restaurants, and households. Because of recent challenges such as Brexit and the COVID pandemic, there is a requirement for more food to be handled without touching the hands of humans, and many business operators are looking for viable solutions. With the recent advances in AI and robotics technology, robotic automation solutions are rapidly becoming more affordable, and new application areas are emerging.

The challenge for the i-Team is to investigate the possible markets and market entry strategies for robotic food handling technologies based on the technologies under development.