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HKUST and HKPC Launch Joint Research Lab for Industrial AI and Robotics

Image Credits: HKUST, Press Release

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) recently established the HKUST-HKPC Joint Research Lab for Industrial AI and Robotics (Joint Lab). This Joint Lab aims to develop innovative industrial technologies that can address the technical challenges being faced by the manufacturers and provide practical solutions with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technology, helping to enhance the productivity of industries in Hong Kong and simultaneously fostering intelligent and advanced manufacturing and industrial innovation and technology (I&T) talent development.

The Joint Lab will be located in the HKPC Building and HKUST campus in Hong Kong as well as the soon-to-open HKUST (GZ) campus in Nansha, Guangzhou. This is HKUST’s first joint research laboratory with a statutory body in Hong Kong.

Leveraging HKPC’s wealth of expertise and solid experience in the implementation of intelligent manufacturing and HKUST’s internationally-recognized and world-leading research competency in the fields of AI and robotics, the brand-new Joint Lab will collaborate closely on a wide range of initiatives to address real-world challenges for the benefit of Hong Kong, the nation and even the world. The Joint Lab is also an RYD (Realising Your Dream) platform to jointly explore frontier applications in the areas of AI, big data, data science and robotics.

According to the “Hong Kong AI and Robotics Technology and Economic Development Research Report” jointly released by HKPC and the Hong Kong Society of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in March 2021, 46% of local companies believed that they were making progress in AI and robotics technology application, yet 32% felt the pace was slow and only 17% would deem to have achieved or exceeded the expected target.

A majority had a clear and urgent need for intelligent technology solutions. A research lab on AI and robotics combining the strengths of an academic institute and an R&D centre can help enterprises cope with emerging technology and industry needs.

The Joint Lab focuses on R&D of technologies covering four key topics:

  • Industrial AI: Developing novel big data-driven AI solutions that can simulate and analyze the complicated production systems to facilitate flexible scheduling and remote manufacturing, and developing smart vision in the factory environment for the detection of surface defects and geometric errors, as well as root cause analysis
  • Big Data: Developing versatile sensors with edge-computing capability supported by stream data acquisition and analysis power for smart manufacturing applications, with the adoption of the Internet of Things
  • Data Science: Equipping software systems and robotics agents with effective visual interfaces to improve information understandability, feedback control and human-in-the-loop decision-making with the smart use of Human-Computer Interfaces
  • Robotics: Developing grippers for the food industry, autonomous systems for grinding and spraying for the hardware and plastics industry, and intelligent equipment for cleaning and inspection of facilities

An initial list of research projects to be carried out in the Joint Lab include:

  • Defect inspection on surfaces of reflective freeform objects
  • Small defect inspection
  • Process mining for bottleneck identification root cause analysis
  • Product design automation
  • Deep end-to-end training from perception to control for high-precision robot tasks
  • Multimodal interaction: multimodal-aligned industrial human-robot interaction

This joint effort will also include an Internship Programme and PhD Fellowship Programme to both advance the research initiative of the Joint Lab as well as provide valuable practice and exchange opportunities to HKUST students and research support staff in pursuing a career in AI and robotics technologies, creating favourable conditions for promoting I&T and intelligent manufacturing in Hong Kong.

This Joint Lab collaboration not only signifies HKUST and HKPC’s strengthened capabilities in the above-mentioned areas but is also a commitment to encouraging more interdisciplinary research discussions, strengthening cross-sector technology transfer and cultivating young talent to bring significant benefits to HKUST and HKPC’s researchers and also industries and the community with the innovative adoption of AI and robotics technologies.

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