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As we gear-up for digital disruption, the future of how we will live and work in Australia is uncertain. Artificial Intelligence and developments around robotic and autonomous systems of Industry 4.0 offer opportunities to rethink human/robot interaction. Design Robotics brought together academia, industry and government to this IFE Future of Working And Living Breakfast to have a connected and dynamic discussion about the development of skills, training and the question of how to shape future technologies. Hosted by QUT’s Institute for Future Environments and the Design Lab, the session began with the Hon. Cameron Dick, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, began by reiterating the Palaszczuk Government’s vision of the advanced manufacturing sector to be an international leader by 2026 as evident by the ARM Hub partnership.

Future of Working and Living

The session began with Dr Sean Gallagher discussing how key exponential digital technology, digital hyperconnectivity and digital ecosystems is changing the face of work. He went on to discuss how digital technologies are going to take on routine and predictable tasks but the current mindset is unable to envision that future work will focus on creativity and innovation. This was illustrated through various examples such as UAP’s work with robots, remote mowing systems and a telecom company that has a specialised ‘disruption ready’ workgroup. He ended his talk with 10 ways to Reimagine Work, which included having agile flat-structured working groups, a risk-taking and resilient mindset and most importantly, that ‘ideas’ are going to be the most valuable feature of future work.

Labour in the digital economy: A looming crisis of (in)decent work? 

Prof Paula McDonald discussed the precariousness of decent work with the rise of gig work in the digital age. While the talk covered the dichotomy of technology i.e. where the price of being connected is the loss of privacy, she documented ways that workers were resisting being monitored and surveilled.  She concluded her talk by recognizing that as future work gets diverse and individualised, it is important to ensure standards of decent work and job security. 

Design Robotics: UAP’s Collaboration between IMCRC, QUT, RMIT

This talk showcased UAP’s collaboration with the IMRC, QUT, RMIT on the Design Robotics for Mass Customisation Manufacturing project (2017-2022), to use innovative robotic vision systems and software user-interfaces to reduce the integration time between design and custom manufacturing. Matthew Tobin championed the use of cross-reality technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in manufacturing to reduce waste, empower creative design and support shorter delivery times. 

  • Why and how are companies in Australia using design and technologies to drive the Future of Working and Living?
  • How can Australian universities and industry work together to develop design and technologies for the Future of Working and Living?
  • How can Australian universities and industry work together to foster skill development to address how we will live and work in the future?
  • How does policy impact and inform the Future of Working and Living?

Website | Eventbrite
Date: Wed 2nd October 2019 
Time: 7am-9am
Venue: QUT Design Lab, Gardens Point.

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Design Robotics at ADR 2019

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira presented the paper “From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture” at the Annual Design Research Conference 2019, Monash University in early October 2019. The paper was co-written by Dr Glenda Caldwell, Dr Jared Donovan, Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira and Liz Brogden. Below is a summary based on the paper that was presented.
From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture
Design Robotics places design at the forefront of robotic research to enable design-led manufacturing. UAP, a global manufacturer of urban artworks and architectural facades, is finding ways to adopt robotics into its manufacturing. The QUT Design Robotics research group and RMIT are collaborating with UAP on an Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) funded project (2017-2022). 
‘Open Innovation’ describes how an organisation can purposively manage inward flows of external knowledge and outward flows of internal knowledge to increase its ability to innovate in line with its business model (West & Bogers, 2014). In this research, we wanted to find out how open innovation can be employed as a strategy for architectural innovation within a design-led manufacturing organization, such as UAP.

Open Innovation Case study: Artist Emily Floyd with Poll the Parrot.
Photo Credits: UAP Company.

We examined two projects from UAP’s commercial work that employed an open innovation strategy to explore the potential of advanced manufacturing technologies in collaboration with external partners. These built works demonstrate novel approaches to integrating robotic systems and virtual reality into the ideation, communication, design development, and manufacture required to deliver each project. We worked with our industry partner to collect on-site observations and findings, which show that it takes internal know-how and decision-making processes required to integrate advanced manufacturing technologies into workflows. 
Read the full paper here.
Conference Name: The 2nd Annual Design Research Conference
Date: 3-4 October 2019
Location: Monash University, Caulfield, Australia
Related work
UAP (Urban Art Projects): Transgressions between making, craft, and technology for architects and artists
West, J., & Bogers, M. (2014). Leveraging External Sources of Innovation: A Review of Research on Open Innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31(4), 814–831.

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RoboBlox | Making Art with Robots

RoboBlox is a 4X4 3D Blox artwork which comprises of a sculptural frieze, interactive artwork and a ‘making of RoboBlox’ video (see below).  While the artwork is inspired by Thieri Foulc’s 2D-Morpholo Tile Game and the Oulipo French Movement, the muse of RoboBlox’s sculptural frieze is the windy Brisbane/Maiwar river. The artwork uses rules and constraints to trigger the creation of the blocks which also serves as the basis of interactive creative engagement between the public and artwork. To create the individual block designs, QUT Design Robotics and UQ researchers coded a novel computational workflow into an industrial robotic arm to hotwire-cut polystyrene into the desired designs. 

The making of RoboBlox Video
As robots will be commonly used in design education and fabrication, this artwork is an exploration into finding novel ways to communicate robotic design processes. This is important as designers and architectural manufacturers are likely to rely on robotic systems for the production of design and architectural work in the coming future. In keeping with this approach, a video which explains the design and manufacturing process of RoboBlox was placed within the exhibition. It elaborates on the workflow where open-source plug-ins were used particularly to develop a web-based interactive design platform and code that translates 2D graphics into 3D forms. It further documents the eventual robotic fabrication of the frieze pieces.

Roboblox, Museum of Brisbane.
Photo credit: Shuwei Zhang

RoboBlox was exhibited in Brisbane, Australia at: 

More on RoboBlox and related work:

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ARM Hub is hiring!

Boy Walking (in progress) – Ronnie Van Host; courtesy of UAP

The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub, a collaboration between industry, research, institutions and government, launches in 2020 with the aim of bringing cutting-edge robotics and design to the manufacturing sector in Queensland. The key partners of the project are QUT, UAP (previously Urban Art Projects), CSIRO and IMCRC and the Queensland Government with the Government investing $7.71 million over the next four years to support the establishment of the Hub. 
If you want to see your amazing business and organisational skills accelerate the digital transformation of industry in Australia, you should apply now for one of the following roles. 

Chief Operating Officer

Join the senior leadership team of a unique innovation hub driving the digital transformation of Australian manufacturing. The COO will work in partnership with the Chief Executive to drive sustainability and growth through operational effectiveness and highly-skilled stakeholder management.
For more information, click here.

Business Development Manager

This senior position will drive success through high-level partnerships and collaboration between industry, government and research institutions at the cutting edge of industry 4.0 transformation.
For more information, click here.

ARM Hub Coordinator

The ARM Hub Coordinator will work directly to support the Chief Executive, managing the flow of information, projects and administrative priorities.
For more information, click here.

Communications Officer

This is a  flexible and exciting part-time role that awaits a creative, autonomous communications professional with enviable digital expertise. It will involve digital marketing skills and a strategic mindset to support this small, high-performance team driving innovation in advanced manufacturing.
For more information, click here.

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Advanced Robotics Manufacturing: ARM Hub announced

The Palaszczuk Government will invest $7.71 million over four years to establish the nation’s first robotics manufacturing hub to create and support more jobs.

Leanne Linard MP, Professor Mark Harvey, Cameron Dick MP and Matt Tobin, MD Urban Arts Projects. Photo Credit: QUT Media.


Government media release:

Australia’s first robotics hub to drive advanced manufacturing jobs

QUT Media:

Australia’s first robotics hub to drive advanced manufacturing jobs

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Opening Gateways for Design Robotics

Photo Credit: UAP (Photography by Leah Desborough)

UAP and Design Robotics attended and presented at the evening event Digital Gateways, in February – a gathering of digital visionaries showcasing and experiencing some of the latest advances in digital engineering technology.
Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon, hosted the event. The presentations and displays focused on the integration of design and engineering with current digital tools and methodologies. Aurecon showcased their digital capabilities to clients along with SightLab, Unsigned Studio and external exhibitors Quartile One and Design Robotics/UAP.
Lewis Humphries from UAP and Dr Jared Donovan from Design Robotics presented about the digital tools employed by UAP and Design Robotics to enhance design methodologies. They described how cutting-edge digital design practices of architects and artists are pushing the limits of traditional fabrication techniques. Dr Donovan introduced the Design Robotics project as one that is exploring and developing ways to address the challenges inherent in modern-day manufacturing. The potential of incorporating robotic vision technologies was discussed, as well as human-centred design into the development of robotics systems for mass-customisation manufacturing.
Photo Credit: Aurecon (Photography by Leah Desborough)

Held at Aurecon’s new 25 King Street office in Brisbane, attendees included Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Transurban, Lend Lease, Government representatives, BHP, and Rio Tinto among others. Topics included Virtual Reality, real-time visualisation platforms, Augmented Reality applications such as topographic contour line sandboxes and GIS/mapping, advanced data analytics and machine learning, and digitised estates.

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Continuing Professional Development: Advanced Manufacturing Advancing Architecture

The world of advanced manufacturing and design robotics was brought to a group of Brisbane architects in February. UAP hosted its first Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Standards Workshop Tour designed to help architects understand different design techniques, from traditional processes to advanced manufacturing.
A Code of Professional Conduct binds architects, requiring that members dedicate themselves to the advancement of architecture, and ultimately the quality of our environment and people’s lives.  
[small-quote name=”RAIA Code of Professional Conduct” title=””]The profession of architecture is a unique discipline, combining elements of art, science, commerce and law.[/small-quote]

Photo Credit: UAP

Participants were able to earn accreditation points through this formal CPD activity. First, the group were given a presentation by Samuel Mayze, UAP Project Director and New Projects Manager, they heard about UAP’s ongoing collaborations with emerging and established artists, architects and designers around the world.
Dr Glenda Caldwell of the Design Robotics team delivered a presentation on the potential of Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing techniques in design and construction.
Participants were invited to tour the UAP workshop, observing the dynamic creative environment characterised by the integration of art, architecture, design, innovation and advanced manufacturing.
Photo Credit: UAP

During the tour, participants observed how UAP is using Virtual Reality headsets and software to visualise the scale and context of artworks in development.
Photo Credit: UAP

Furthering learning about design is one of the four units of competency for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of registered architects in Australia. Workshops will run bi-monthly, linking in with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) National Competency Standards in Architecture.
Future CPD event dates are:

  • Fri 26th April
  • Fri 21st June
  • Fri 23rd August
  • Fri 25th October

For more information see:

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Open Innovation: The future of creative collaboration

In a fast-paced world where the entrepreneur is king, collaborative innovation is frequently hindered by issues of intellectual property and restrictions around knowledge-use. Open innovation is countering this closed model of knowledge-production, seeking to bring openness to research and facilitate opportunities for impact and value creation for cross-sectoral stakeholders.
The QUT Institute for Future Environments (IFE) Transforming Innovation Systems Platform hosted a business breakfast and research workshop last week exploring current ideas and future opportunities of open innovation. Both events were supported by the QUT Design Lab, QUT Business School and IMCRC Design Robotics Open Innovation Network. The events sought to connect research and industry, sparking opportunities for collaborative research partnerships.

Left to right: Lisa Cavallaro, David Chuter, QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil, the Hon. Kate Jones MP, Professor Marcel Bogers, and Dr Ian Dover.

Visiting Professor Marcel Bogers of the University of Copenhagen enriched both events with his insights about the design, organisation and management of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
[small-quote name=”Bogers et al. (2018)” title=]”Open innovation has become a new paradigm for organizing innovation … Open innovation assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal as well as external paths to market, as they look to advance their innovations.”[/small-quote]

Research Workshop

Research into Open Innovation is emerging mainly from the business sphere, but it presents exciting possibilities when it comes to collaboration between industry and design researchers. This benefit is mutual, with design able to enrich innovative business models as an inherently user-centric form of practice.
During the “From Open Innovation to Open Research” workshop, over 20 researchers came together, including Dr Prithika Randhawa from the University of Technology Sydney, Business School who assisted in facilitating the event.
Participants discussed the detrimental impact of “silo thinking” as a barrier to Open Innovation, as opposed to models that embrace a diverse range of disciplinary knowledge and skills. “It was great to see different researchers brought together from disciplines such as business and design,” Glenda Caldwell of the Design Robotics team said, “we found common ground through this concept of Open Innovation, and were quickly able to overcome any disciplinary boundaries.”
[small-quote name=”Marcel Bogers”]We are looking inside out and also outside in when it comes to openness and participation between organisations[/small-quote]
Participants also grappled with the complexities of engaging multiple stakeholders with diverse interests, as well as the impact of institutional aspects of policy-making and participatory governance. Open Innovation was frequently described as a form of ecosystem in which the key to success is in striking a balance between value creation and empowerment for each of the stakeholders.

Business Breakfast

The Open Innovation Breakfast was hosted on 15 February at QUT by the IFE Transforming Innovation Systems Platform, bringing together over 80 industry, government and academic representatives.

The Hon. Kate Jones MP

Opened by the Honourable Kate Jones, Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, and attended by QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil the event linked research, practice and policy. Speakers included Dr Ian Dover, CEO of METS Ignited, Lisa Cavallaro, Industry Development Manager of Brisbane Marketing, David Chuter, CEO Managing Director, Innovative Manufacturing CRC, and Professor Marcel Bogers provided a fresh outlook on the current challenges and future opportunities for Open Innovation.
Reference: Bogers, M., Chesbrough, H., Moedas, C. (2018). Open Innovation: Research, Practices, and Policies. California Management Review, 60(2), 5-16.

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The Future of Immersive Starts Here

In a 2016 report by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) the projected growth of Virtual Reality in the manufacturing industry was valued at 162 billion dollars by 2020. In comparison, the report suggests that 3D Printing will grow by 35 billion dollars, and Artificial Intelligence by 5 billion dollars. When I read this, I was surprised that VR is predicted to have such a significant impact on the future of manufacturing. So, it’s a good thing that UAP’s Luke Harris is keeping up to date with the latest advancements in VR technology.

The Future of Immersive Starts Here

Luke recently attended the VRS conference, The Future of Immersive Starts Here, in San Francisco. I sat down with Luke to hear about what he discovered at this conference. Luke told me that attending the conference was a very worthwhile exercise because “It was good to get perspective on the industry and I felt excited about where the technology might take us in the future.”
Conference attendees came from diverse backgrounds and industries including; people who were developing tech start-ups, education and training (especially), people from major software companies, tech influencers, the entertainment industry, and architects.
Educational applications of Virtual and Augmented Reality has become a significant growth area. Luke noted that “The thing that surprised me was the focus on investment in using VR for education and training, from surgeons to crane drivers.”

Cross Reality

The conference brought forward a number of new terms around this technology for discussion as well. Broadly, the focus of the conference was Cross Reality (XR), which Luke defined as “pretty much an umbrella term for augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and cinematic reality.” Which brought up another new term, Mixed Reality (MR), and Luke defined that as’ a mix of virtual and augmented reality.” Another new term was Extended Reality, and with this term, Luke found that “Some of the speakers are trying to popularise extended reality, which is looking into the future where we will move beyond augmented and virtual reality.”

Advances in Technology

There were a few advances that Luke thought would be really promising to advanced manufacturing and UAP’s fabrication processes. One was the use of ‘light fields’ which facilitated headset free holograms. You can read more about this technology on the Light Field Lab website
However, Luke found that the most significant advances were those that enhanced cross-disciplinary and locational collaboration.  “The most impressive technologies were MR facilitated collaborative problem solving, where one person might be wearing a headset and working on a manufacturing floor and be guided by someone in another city or country on what to do. This involves using AR and VR for conferencing, and working together.”
Other technologies that Luke suggested would be big catalysts for change included cloud processing. “One of the exciting developments for Mixed Reality that was presented at the conference was cloud processing, where lightweight, inexpensive devices can have their processing capabilities boosted by processing performed in the cloud.” Luke also felt that streamlining VR processes with a centralized platform and advances with compatible hardware would really drive VR and AR forward.

Looking Forward

Luke left the conference feeling optimistic about the role of AR and VR will play in advancing manufacturing. “I definitely got excited about the future of AR. Over the next five years, it’s going to explode. The technology is almost moving faster than the hardware. I don’t know whether it’s going to be with headsets or mobile phones.”
Overall, Luke said the conference gave him a much-needed confidence about boost about how prepared UAP are when it comes to implementing AR and VR into their processes. “[the conference] gave me a perspective of what’s happening in the industry, which was gratifying, because the work I’ve been doing the last year, I felt like I was always playing catch up to the technology. But just looking at what people are doing, even with copious amounts of money, I felt like we’re in a good position. We know the limitations of the hardware and we’re able to push it in the right direction for our processes.”

Industry News

We are on the Map!

The Association for Robots in Architecture has included Design Robotics and the QUT Design Lab on their International Map of Robots in the Creative Industry. The map is interactive and you can view robots working in creative research and commercial organisations from all over the world.

Launched in 2010 by Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann at the Vienna University of Technology, The Association for Robots in Architecture is ‘an open platform for everybody interested in the creative use, and innovative fabrication, with industrial robots.’
On their website, they state that the association was formed with the goal ‘to make industrial robots accessible for the creative industry, artists, designers and architects, by sharing ideas, research results and technological developments.’ They do this through online communities, such as their International Map of Robots in Creative Industry and through conferences and workshops that they run internationally. They are best known for their annual conference Rob|Arch. This year’s conference is themed, Radical Cross Disciplinarity and will be hosted by ETH University in Zurich, Switzerland, 12th-14th September 2018.
Importantly, Robots in Architecture developed the Kuka PRC plugin for Grasshopper, which enables users to program robotic arms from design and architectural software. This was a significant contribution to the advancement of robotic arm use in architectural fabrication.
Robots in Architecture develops software and hardware for robotics in architectural fabrication through applied research. They have also developed a series of “robot pedagogics.” Their mandate is to develop answers to the question, ‘how soon will robots revolutionize architecture?’ We hope, that along with the other researchers featured on the International Map of Robots in the Creative Industry, we can work together to answer this question.