Research Topics

Sensors

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Normal cameras only return the intensity or brightness of the environment; however, sometimes it is the range or distance to the objects that is of more interest. Historically, ranging is done by the time-consuming process of scanning a laser dot over the scene, or the software-complex process of using two cameras and resolving the stereo image to determine range. The Sensors developed by the Mechatronics Group can capture the range to every object in a standard camera lens field of view (wide-angle through to telephoto) quickly, precisely and with a high degree of configurability. This means that mobile robots can be operated in complex and changing environments, and potentially used in forensics (e.g. to measure debris from fatal car crashes), and even the entertainment industry.

Search and Rescue Robots

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In response to a number of global and national disasters, the Mechatronics Research Group have constructed one of New Zealand’s most diverse team of affective robots including a family of search and rescue robots that could be the first to save a person’s life. The lack of effective robots for search and rescue operations after the Christchurch earthquakes and the Pike River mine disaster highlight the potential for new robotic technology. These robots are examples of the growing field of mechatronics which combines mechanical, electronic and software engineering with sensors, physics, mathematics, marketing and design. Embedded controllers, effective instrumentation and relevant control systems are at the core of not only these robots, but a substantial number of commercial electronics.

Sonic Engineering

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Sonic Engineering is the culmination of music, arts, and engineering to create robots which can play musical instruments, or else become instruments themselves. These instruments range from drums, to ringing water filled wine glasses, and to a fully fledged robotic bass guitar - the MechBass. The robots themselves are not designed to replace the human component of playing an instrument, but add a new depth and explorability of music into the current array of instruments with their ability to play instruments in ways which would be impossible for humans to do so. The work completed by the Mechatronics Research Group is done in conjunction with the New Zealand School of Music. Read about the research, and past and present projects on the topic page.

Engineering Education

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Since the introduction of the Bachelor of Engineering degree to Victoria University in 2007, just under 60% of the students have failed part 1 of the engineering program. The program requires a B average to proceed into the second year of study, thus students are opting instead to study a less demanding Bachelor of Science equivalent. Engineering Education is the research into methods of effective ways to retain students studying engineering, to bring them in from secondary schools and predictions of success from their school results.

Rehabilitation Robots

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Traditionally, rehabilitating a patient who has suffered from a loss of function (such as the use of fingers from a stroke), involves a long process of muscle therapy directed by a physiotherapist. The Mechatronics Research Group researches in the area of Rehabilitation Robots, which is the design of machines that assist in rehabilitating patients which can help to reduce recovery time.

Machine Vision

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Machine Vision is the design of active vision systems for use in robots, in other words giving the robots the ability to see the way humans do. That is, it requires an intelligent method of directing the camera at a target of interest. For example moving the face of a robot by controlling its neck to track an object, so that the camera is always facing the correct direction.

Industry Projects

The Mechatronics Research Group regularly work on projects which collaborate with industry partners. For more information visit the Industry Projects page.