Indian robotics student wins fellowship to attend prestigious Heidelberg Laureate Forum while studying at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

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New Delhi: PhD student and social roboticist Siva Leela Krishna Chand Gudi has been awarded a fellowship by the Australian Academy of Science to represent Australia at the 6th Heidelberg Laureate Forum, 23 – 28 September 2018.

The highly prestigious event in Germany brings top 200 most qualified leading young mathematicians and computer scientists from around the world to engage in a cross-generational scientific dialogue with Nobel laureates of the most prestigious prizes in their fields including the Abel Prize, the Turing Award, and the Nevanlinna Prize and Fields Medal.

Computer science is one of the younger scientific disciplines represented and Chand is one of only 30 of the 200 researchers who will deliver a presentation at the Forum.

“I am overjoyed for being selected,” says Chand. “It is a unique networking opportunity for me to share my research with my peers and with eminent scientists in their areas. As the only recipient of the Academy’s Fellowship, I am delighted to use the travel fund to also visit robotics labs in Germany and see what contemporary research is taking place there.”

Originally from Tenali, Andhra Pradesh, during his formative years, Chand interned at coveted research organizations from across the globe including Indian establishments such as Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

“My studies and initial work experience in India provided me with a foundation to build upon my career as a young researcher,” explains Chand. “I decided to come to UTS because of the quality of research and equipment. I will return to India after a few years because my ultimate dream is to have a startup in India in the field of robotics.”

Chand is currently in his fourth semester of research at UTS’ Innovation and Enterprise Research Laboratory, also called ‘The Magic Lab’ in the Centre for Artificial Intelligence, supported by Distinguished Professor Mary-Anne Williams and Senior Lecturer Dr Benjamin Johnston. Among the many scholarship offers of study, Chand chose UTS for the multi-skilled team within the Lab, the high level of support he receives, the ability to learn new skills through team work (as a member of the winning UTS 2017 UTS RoboCup team), and concentration on research that has real-world impact.

However, the facilities and resources available through the Magic Lab – which so attracted him to study at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – mean it’s not ‘all work and no play’!

“The Magic Lab gives me the opportunity to play with robots and develop ideas and solutions which I hope will have a positive impact on society,” he says. “I want to make a ground-breaking contribution in the field of robotics using artificial intelligence.”

Chand is particularly interested in the way artificial intelligence can be used in to address issues faced by a global trend – the increase in ageing populations.

“Social robots have great potential in the lives of older people, especially those living alone, at home. They can be a real part of their lives, supporting them, being a companion, being a carer. A social robot can be programmed to understand and share feelings, or emotions, and participate in human life.

“For example, the role of a robot can be to act as a companion to an elderly person or to ensure medications are taken on time. In the future, I can also see robots taking on the role of coach or giving advice to humans in different situations.”

Chand’s entrepreneurship skills are evident in his many different outputs, and he admits to working a lot – he has already registered four patents, with three more pending and another – a smartwatch for dementia sufferers – being processed.

The latter is a collaboration with his friend, Ashish Rauniyar, a PhD fellow at the University of Oslo. This product represented Norway in the Europe-wide 2017 European Satellite Navigation innovation competition during European Space Week 2017.