Pepper Robot
Pepper Robot

Meet Pepper. Pepper as you can see is a robot and robotics is a major element in technology education at Middlesex University. Having Pepper, along with Nao and Baxter, allows students to get to grips with programming robots which is a key future skill.

Although these 3 are the popular image of a robot most robot’s are designed for specific purposes so don’t have quite the humanistic appearance they do. Designed to accomplish specific tasks they can vary considerably.


The students start with an Arduino based robot called Myrtle. More technically know as The MIddlesex Robotic plaTfOrm (MIRTO). This provides the framework for developing increasing complexity in robotics, which is the basis  for the more advanced work that follows. If you want to know more about MIRTO take a look at Franco Raimondi’s Introduction and Version 3 update articles.

Smart Factory Lab 2
Smart Factory Lab

Of course not all robots move around and the facilities in the Middlesex robotics and haptics lab are enviable featuring over 100 workstations with equipment and software including CAD/CAM equipment, an integrated flexible manufacturing system, state of the art automation devices, LabView and Multisim tools as well as associated hardware such as NI-ELVIS training equipment and Compact Rio control systems.

Baxter in action
Baxter in action

We have always been impressed with the work that we see coming out of Middlesex through our sponsorship of the First Year Technology prize. There have been some excellent entries (take a look at last year’s winners) and check more info here.

Ritterman Building
3d pottery
3d Pottery
roller coaster icon
roller coaster

I had a great time at the Middlesex University Scholarship and Awards Event 2016. This was held in the Ricketts Quad – certainly a place to shock and awe.Ricketts Quad at Middlesex Uni

First Year Challenge Winners 2016
Franco Raimondi, Timothy Cole, Nicholas Fitton, Russell Weetch

Systematic sponsors the First Year Challenge Award which is awarded to the winning team of first year computer science students who take part in a challenge building robotics applications. It was a pleasure to meet the winners again, Timothy Cole and Nicholas Fitton who won the award for their smart house project. I’m always impressed by the keenness of the winners of this award and the amount of work that they put in, as well as the staff who support the project Dr Giuseppe Primiero and Prof Franco Raimondi.

This year we shared a table with the winner and sponsors of The David Tresman Caminer Award which provides funding for a PhD project on the history of computing. The award is named after one of the pioneers of the LEO computer that was developed by J. Lyons and Co in the 1950s and widely acknowledged as the first business computer in the World. This year the award,

First Year Challenge Winners 2016
Mr. Peter Byford (LEO Computers Society), Ms. Elisabetta Mori, dr. Giuseppe Primiero and Mrs. Hilary Caminer (LEO Computers Society)

sponsored by the Association for Information Technology Trust, was won by Elisabetta Mori and I look forward to seeing the results of this research.



clownCoulrophobia – the medical term for fear of clowns – is quite common, although not always a pathological fear, you sense they are creepy.

Well it turns out that there is a good reason for this. While psychologists think it stems from their transgressive behaviour (unpredictable and antisocial), neurobiology has a different take and is much deeper.

Exaggerated facial features pushes the clown into the “uncanny valley”.


This phenomenon was identified by Masahiro Mori ( a robotics professor ) in 1970 and is used to describe the feeling people get when something appears not quite human.

uncannyvalleySo people are quite happy with robots that look human or look distinctly not human, but get distinctly uncomfortable when they look nearly human. If you plot this on a graph there is a steep drop off at some point, hence the “valley”.


Thanks to  Dr Max Pemberton’s column for reminding me of this interesting fact.

Check out Wikipedia for more info.