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Setting out on the trail

I can hear a mysterious whirring under the door of the lab, but I won’t have access until I’ve done the safety induction. In the past I have been on supervised tours through the lab, shuffling past autonomous amphibious vehicles, and aircraft that fly themselves. Today I did get to see the lab briefly, as one of the staff lent me some medium grade lubrication oil to try to get rid of the squeak in my office chair. I hope I can spend some time in this space, following robots and roboticists.

On Monday July 26 I started my six month Special Studies Program placement at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. I was invited by the people at the Centre for Social Robotics, the group at the ACFR most concerned with understanding how people relate to robots. Their research has involved collaborations between the charming new media artist Mari Velonaki and a number of engineers at the ACFR including Steve Scheding and David Rye.

Academic David Rye and administration Manager Ruth Olip show me around on my first day, installing me at a desk on the second floor of the Rose Street Building. I share the office with an engineer working on submarine robots, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). AUVs should not be confused with UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

My first challenge in setting up my computer is to set a password that the system will accept. Apparently this is the state of the art in artificial intelligence: a system that assesses the highly secure passwords to be just beyond the threshold of human memory. This was almost as annoying as the squeaky chair, but I did mange to get both fixed.

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