13 Jun 2024

Using AI to improve lives

Professor Anikó Ekárt and 'Pepper' the robot

Aston University researchers have announced the opening of a new centre which focuses on harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to improve people’s lives. The Aston Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research and Application (ACAIRA)has been set up to become a West Midlands hub for the use of AI to benefit of society.

Following its official opening, the academics leading it say they are looking to work with organisations and the public. Director Professor Anikó Ekárt said: “There have been a lot of reports focusing on the negative use of AI and subsequent fear of AI. This is why the centre is so important now, as we aim to achieve trustworthy, ethical and sustainable AI solutions for the future, by co-designing them with stakeholders.”

Deputy director Dr Ulysses Bernardet added: “We work with local, national and international institutions from academia, industry, and the public sector, expanding Aston University’s external reach in AI research and application.

“ACAIRA will benefit our students enormously by training them to become the next generation of AI practitioners and researchers equipped for future challenges.”

The centre is already involved in various projects that use AI to solve some of society’s challenges.

A collaboration with Legrand Care aims to extend and improve independent living conditions for older people by using AI to analyse data collected through home sensors which detect decline in wellbeing. This allows care professionals to change and improve individuals’ support plans whenever needed.

A project with engineering firm Lanemark aims to reduce the carbon footprint of industrial gas burners by exploring new, more sustainable fuel mixes.

Other projects include work with asbestos consultancy Thames Laboratories which will lead to reduced costs, emissions, enhanced productivity and improved resident satisfaction in social housing repairs and a partnership with transport safety consultancy Agilysis to produce an air quality prediction tool which uses live data to improve transport planning decisions.

The centre is part of the University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and its official launch took place on the University campus on 29 February. The event included a talk by the chair of West Midlands AI and Future Tech Forum, Dr Chris Meah. He introduced the vision for AI within the West Midlands and the importance of bringing together academics, industry and the public.

Current research in sectors such as traffic management, social robotics, bioinformatics, health, and virtual humans was highlighted, followed by industry talks from companies Smart Transport Hub, Majestic, DRPG and Proximity Data Centres.

The centre’s academics work closely with West Midlands AI and Future Tech Forum and host the regular BrumAI Meetup.


Company info: Aston University