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Robot cleaners win MIT Sloan's inaugural AI competition

The robots perform the task of spraying disinfectant at consistent rates and speeds, enabling human cleaners to focus on manually scrubbing biofilms and residues.

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The robots can help to safely clean high-traffic areas
The robots can help to safely clean high-traffic areas

A developer of autonomous ground robots that safely disinfect high-traffic spaces has been announced winner of MIT’s inaugural Collaborative Intelligence Competition. motorCortex.ai beat out seven other finalists to win the $50,000 prize.

 

Launched by MIT last fall, the competition forms part of a larger educational programme conceived by MIT’s School of Engineering dean Anantha Chandrakasan.The initiative aims to advance the development of artificial intelligence (AI) to complement, collaborate with, and augment humans versus replacing them.

 

Robot cleaners

 

According to MIT, as Covid-19 necessitates the frequent disinfection of public spaces, motorCortex.ai’s offering addresses companies’ multiple cleaning challenges. Manual application of sprayed disinfectants requires careful attention to ensure the correct “soak time” to neutralise pathogens, and disinfectant toxicity raises safety concerns for the custodian due to frequent exposure.

“AI and computational technologies will be a transformative force in our society for the next decade”

Additionally, companies are struggling to find and train sufficient staff to perform this critical function due to an increase in the sanitisation frequency. The autonomous disinfection robots work collaboratively with cleaning staff to address these challenges.

 

The robots perform the task of spraying disinfectant at consistent rates and speeds, enabling human cleaners to focus on manually scrubbing biofilms and residues. They also disinfect surfaces with UV-C light and are equipped with sensors to identify humans in its proximity while maintaining a correct distance for safe application.

 

The robots autonomously map and navigate their path between areas
The robots autonomously map and navigate their path between areas

Performance information is logged in a database, enabling facility managers to track disinfection cycles and visualise disinfection quality.

 

“The competition was a catalyst to again get to the core of what makes MIT so special,” said Chandrakasan. “It created a platform and a series of programmes that leveraged resources and crossed disciplines, all with the goal of advancing knowledge, educating students, and serving society.”

 

He continued: “AI and computational technologies will be a transformative force in our society for the next decade, and we look forward to cultivating its positive impact through initiatives such as the Collaborative Intelligence Competition.”

 

Other finalists

 

Among the other finalists were, Fuente, a platform that enables city policy makers to collect and analyse data to make informed development decisions and respond to evolving situations, SensorTensor, an autonomous voice-as-a-feature platform for the Internet of Things and Human Dynamics, which is leveraging robotics capabilities to create a safer work environment, specifically for professions that require performing tasks at heights.

“The initiative created a platform and a series of programmes that leveraged resources and crossed disciplines”

More than 30 teams with some 130 students participated. In addition to the grand prize finale, the competition included multiple interim showcase events where teams competed for milestone awards. Twenty teams received $1,000 prizes, and five teams were awarded $5,000 prizes.

 

This mission is fully aligned with a new, cross-cutting area of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, the Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC), which aims to facilitate the development of responsible “habits of mind and action” for those who create and deploy computing technologies, and the creation of technologies in the public interest.

 

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