The Guardian

19th October 2014

We are thrilled to have been recently featured in The Guardian online, our latter projects on robotics being described as “pioneering solutions for the household”:

Among those aiming to bridge the gap [between ideas and commercialisation] is Sebastian Conran, designer in residence at the University of Sheffield. Working with researchers including Professor Tony Prescott, director of the Sheffield Centre for Robotics, Conran has been involved in pioneering solutions for the household, from robotic companions to “smart” furniture that can assist elderly or ill people. “Robotics is the new rock’n’roll,” he says. “It’s about finding compelling uses for it.”


Move over Tamgotchi, a new digital pet is about to roll into town. This cutesy robot, set to be launched nationwide next spring, boasts the ability to respond to voices, recognise objects and even take itself to a charging station when zonked. Under development by a team that encompasses Eaglemoss publications, Conran and robotics experts including Prescott and Dr Ben Mitchinson from the University of Sheffield, the bot – it is claimed – mimics a real animal.

“The control systems inside the robot are modelled on what we think mammalian brains are doing,” says Prescott. The aim is that you’ll be able to train your new companion. “It will be learning according to the same principles – stimulus response learning, or reinforcement learning – that animals can do,” he adds.

You robo-pet will be fitted with cameras and microphones; you can keep tabs on what it can see and hear via an app on your tablet or smartphone. But rather than arriving as a readymade bundle of robotic joy, it will be available as a magazine-based build-it-yourself kit.


Another innovation from the fruitful collaboration that includes Prescott and Conran is smart furniture that appears to blend in rather than stand out. Currently under development is a smartphone-controlled cantilevered table that can navigate around the home or hospital to transport items, as well as adjust its height and tilt. With a tablet or iPad hooked up, users can talk to friends, family and healthcare providers face to face, as well as make use of voice and gesture control.

But Conran believes its uses could be manifold: “With a bit of modification, so people don’t pinch your champagne, you could see it in room service,” he says.