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Goodbye Robocop, hello Robofarmer - engineer upbeat about future of robotics

PUBLISHED: 16:40 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:33 18 October 2018

Professor Danielle George will speak at the Norwich Science Festival on October 23 about the future of robotics.

Professor Danielle George will speak at the Norwich Science Festival on October 23 about the future of robotics.

Archant

The scene is typical Norfolk: the farmer in a tractor, irrigating a field. Less typical is the robot helping the farmer make decisions, like which part of the field needs more water and which needs less.

Professor Danielle George is upbeat about the future of robots and believes they can help humans.Professor Danielle George is upbeat about the future of robots and believes they can help humans.

“Farming is a classic example of where robotics can help,” says Professor Danielle George, who is appearing at the Norwich Science Festival on October 23 to speak about the future of robots, about which she is upbeat.

“The good they do in the world will far outweigh any of the scary stuff,” she says.

During drought conditions like last summer, when water was scarce, robots could have assisted farmers. “If you are saving a precious resource like water,” Professor George says, “only irrigating the part of the field that needs it, a farmer can be in a tractor and in real time there is a robot system able to make these decisions, on the different types of soil, and where to water.”

An astrophysicist and engineer, Professor George has appeared on TV, presenting ‘Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots’ on BBC Four. The event at Norwich School Blake Studio, co-hosted by evolutionary biologist Dr Ben Garrod, will explore whether robots will enhance or threaten our lives.

Two of those robots, Valkyrie and Erica, are humanoid, or designed to resemble humans.

Professor George says: “Valkyrie is not designed for earth. He is designed to set up home on Mars for humans. This is one of the examples of where humans and robots are working together.”

She said that if she went to Mars she would die but a robot would survive there for a long time.

The professor has also met Erica, one of the most human-like robots yet. “Erica learns from talking to people,” the professor says. “She might have a conversation with you about food, and you might say you do not like pineapple on pizza, and she will remember this.”

Professor George has noticed a difference in attitudes toward robots between east and west. “Whereas in the west [robots] are industrial, making our cars and people worry they will take over our jobs, go to the east and they are seen much more as companions.”

The talk at Norwich School, Blake Studio is on October 23, 7pm-8pm. Tickets for £10 (£7.50 concessions) go on sale fifteen hours prior to the event.

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