Oklahoma is becoming a growing center for robotics researchPublished: Monday, March 4, 2019 By: Mike Coppock Source: The Journal Record
Oklahoma is becoming fertile ground for cutting-edge research in industrial robotics and artificial intelligence, led by Baker Hughes GE in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma State University’s Research Center in Stillwater.
Led by Taylor Shinn, vice president of ventures and growth at Baker Hughes GE, the Oklahoma City research facility has developed working robotics with AI capacity for the oil patch as well as robotic-guided drones to survey oil fields.
The company’s Smart Gas Lift combines robotics and AI to automatically adjust and stabilize gas injection rates, providing a gas lift performance curve in real time. Shinn’s team is also developing virtual reality tablets for the oil patch to assist drillers.
“Our best partner is Mother Nature,” said Shinn. “Being able to augment our operations is a big development.”
One of the fundamental goals of the facility is mixing artificial intelligence with robotics to augment the way oil firms interact with data and machinery. The goal is to enhance operations in the oil patch as well as improving safety for its employees.
“The benefits of AI will be in reducing risk and will qualify the risks involved,” Shinn said. “Employees will be able to make more real-time decisions.”
To realize those goals, the research center opened in 2016 to house a team that Shinn had been heading since 2014. One of the creative aspects of the center was in commercializing products by way of incubators, a kind of corporate lab that puts a development team together for 12-18 months.
Revenue generated from existing incubators is used to fund further development. Shinn said one goal for the incubator system is the application of augmented-reality and mixed-reality technology. That means the use of intelligent automation in the field for increasing production as well as enhancing oil recovery services for unconventional resources.
“It will mean that we will be looking for a different type of employee,” said Shinn.
While the Oklahoma City facility is focused on industrial development, the OSU Research Center is studying the use of robotics and AI in a more residential environment.
Weihua Sheng’s team at OSU’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been developing a robot with AI capacity that can act as an assistant to caregivers.
“They are companion robots in a home base setting,” Sheng said. “They monitor behavior such as depression and health, and if they perceive a problem, they will ask for help.”
With a team of three to four students, the robots are developed and studied in a sensor-laced “smart house.” Live subjects are used in the robotic trial runs as patients.
“The target is those living alone,” Sheng said. “The goal is to (allow people to) be aging in place.”
The robots look much like laptops for now. They have no arms or legs – yet. Sheng’s team has been working on the project since 2006 and believes within the next five years they will be made available to the public.
“The robot can engage you, asking you what is the matter if it senses something is wrong such as depression,” Sheng said.
Sheng’s mandate at OSU’s Laboratory for Advanced Sensing, Computation and Control is large: Develop mobile robots, wearable computing, robot learning skills and intelligent transportation systems.