New robot technology to deliver tactical advantage to the Australian Defence Force

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The Western Australian Government has granted $150,000 to Edith Cowan University (ECU) scientists to collaborate with top artificial intelligence (AI) firms to design technology that would train defence force robots to recognise hand gestures.

In a statement, ECU stated the team would comprise developers from Chironix, Augmented Reality provider, Agili8, Rugged Technology Manufacturer Motium, and researchers from the University of Western Australia, including a cognitive scientist and a cyber security expert.

“Optimising the present-day utility of robotics technology in the Australian Defence Force requires integrating robots into the human operating environment where they can be at least partially controlled by a human operator,” ECU’s Dr Syed Zulqarnain Gilani said.

The project aims to replace soldiers’ existing use of remote controls and switch to hand gestures to control unmanned machines.

A front-facing camera integrated into the operator’s AR glasses will recognise the hand motions and send them across long distances to the robot.

Agili8, a Perth-based company, developed the breakthrough XRAI Vision glasses, which transfer hand gestures from human to robot over great distances.

“This use of AI and AR in the battlefield will improve responsiveness and reduce the cognitive load on the soldier and is only the beginning of the applications of this technology,” Agili8 Chief Technology Officer Chris Markovic said.

Motium, a Perth-based firm with a solid record in producing tough hardware for the mining industry, is thrilled to transfer its expertise to security and defence domains.

“We are proud to be working with an innovative team on some really cutting-edge development for our frontline soldiers,” Motium Business Development Manager Dieter von Mollendorf stated.

According to Chironix Robotics’s Principal Research Fellow, Dr Owen Carter, there is a long pedigree of Australian soldiers using hand gestures to communicate with one another silently.

“The last thing your average diggers wants to do is stuff around with a robot remote control while getting shot at. Signalling to a robot with one hand while keeping your other hand firmly on your weapon is much preferred,” he said.

University of Western Australia’s cognitive scientist Dr Zachary Howard stated that the technology greatly enhances user experience quality when integrating robots into traditionally human teams and can lessen the cognitive demands associated with present control methods. 

The project is anticipated to take a year and a half to develop before being presented to the Defence Science Centre.


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