First robostudent admitted to the University of Tartu

This February a completely new kind of student arrived at the university – a robot called Pepper. It is owned by AS Hansab and its studies in Tartu are supported by Telia. Pepper’s study process will constitute the first financed project-based practical training at the university.

Pepper was busy welcoming guests at the headquarters of Telia before starting its studies. Produced by a Japanese company SoftBank, this humanoid robot’s key function is to offer companionship to people. Five robotics students supervised by Associate Professor Karl Kruusamäe will participate in educating the new robostudent at the university. If everything goes as planned, Pepper will obtain various skills and knowledge by the end of the semester, so as to communicate with people even better than before.

Mr Kruusamäe, the project supervisor, explained: “Pepper will start learning new things together with robotics and computer engineering students. As we all know, we develop the fastest if we cooperate. On the one hand our students will teach Pepper how to communicate with people in an easily understandable manner in the physical world and in virtual reality. At the same time the students will learn through practical experience how to develop technologically highly complex robotic systems from predefined requirements.”

“The University of Tartu has embarked on a mission to integrate different forms of practical training into every curriculum. We are still only piloting project-based practical training, meant for finding a solution to a company’s or institution’s problem. Pepper is our first success story which might encourage companies and institutes of the university to introduce project-based practice more extensively,” said Vice Rector of Academic Affairs Anneli Saro who welcomed the new student with open arms.

“Telia is constantly seeking new opportunities for contributing to the development of Estonian society as a whole in areas that could be linked with our activities. It is clear that telecommunications will play a major role in the future of robotics, which is why this field fascinates us,” said Mr Toomas Kärner, IoT Business Area Manager at Telia. “Our cooperation with the University of Tartu will offer its students practical experience in robotics which will, in its turn, increase Estonia’s competence to create solutions in this area.”

Mr Kärner commented on Telia’s expectations for the project: “We hope that the cooperation between the UT Institute of Technology, Hansab and Telia will take Pepper’s development to a whole new level, so that the knowledge stored in it at the production point will expand and enable it to do so much more. At the moment I wouldn’t like to expose any more secrets – otherwise I’d spoil the surprise before the end of the project. In other words, we would like Pepper to be able to do stuff that no other Pepper in the world has ever done before as well as to communicate with people in a totally new context.”

Pepper was brought to study at the university for the 2018 Spring semester by the UT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The robostudent will definitely not be lonely as it will enjoy the company of other robots at the university, including KUKA, Universal Robots and Franka Emika manipulators used in the field of manufacturing, Sanbot and Nao humanoids who imitate humans and educational robots like mBots and robotonts (Estonian ‘roboghosts’).

 

Additional information: Aitel Käpp, Head of Marketing and Communications, UT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 508 6478, aitel.kapp@ut.ee

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