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Say hello to Pepper as Brisbane hosts largest robotics festival

Say hello to Pepper as Brisbane hosts largest robotics festival article image

Pepper, the world's first "social" robot, will be the star attraction at Australia's largest robotics festival to be held in Brisbane this month.

The Robotronica festival, which opens at Queensland University of Technology's Gardens Point campus on August 20, will also feature robot battles, a glimpse into the hospitals of the future and a series of presentations and discussions.

Organisers say Pepper will show off its socials skills and selected audience members to be invited to speak with the multi-talented robot after an onstage demonstration.

Australian Centre for Robotic Vision project manager Belinda Ward has been part of the QUT team working on Pepper.

"Pepper is really designed to be a companion robot, not really designed to do physical tasks as much as to be there to have a conversation with, to provide information, to get people interacting," Ms Ward told the Brisbane Times.

The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision helped apply new technology to Pepper's camera-based vision, meaning it can better identify things and navigate its surroundings.

The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision helped apply new technology to Pepper's camera-based vision, meaning it can better identify things and navigate its surroundings.

Common sight in households

Researchers at Softbank Robotics, the company that developed Pepper, hopes social robots will soon be a common sight in households.

Ms Ward is sure robots like Pepper will play a key role in the future.

"I'm not sure if I'm going to have a robot at home with me, but I think in more public environments it may well happen," she said.

"When you go into hospital or a healthcare facility it might be totally reasonable to be met by a robot like Pepper, who might help you or show you around.”

Pepper can speak 19 languages and has been hired by businesses around the world to work as a receptionist.

Robotronica will also offer visitors a range of displays and activities to showcase the latest robotic applications in healthcare and education.

The Hospital of the Future showcase will feature new technology that will transform the healthcare industry as we know it.

Educational and interactive elements

QUT Professor Mia Woodruff, who has been involved with the showcase, told the Brisbane Times there would be educational and interactive elements.

"People will be able to have their faces scanned ... in a non-invasive and quick way and then see how we create a 3D image out of that," Professor Woodruff said.

Much of the technology in the exhibit will be an insight into the work of the soon-to-be-launched Herston Biofabrication Institute, which will attempt to improve healthcare by advancing 3D scanning, modelling and printing technology.

The festival will also include a panel discussion on what robots will mean for education, law enforcement and intimacy.

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