Research Overview

The NSERC Canadian Robotics Network (NCRN) is a national partnership to advance mobile robot systems and human-robot interaction technologies by using learning-based approaches to achieve new levels of performance, in terms of robustness and autonomy, in complex environments. We are the key Canadian stakeholders in robotics: academic researchers and trainees, companies and government organizations, and we target a range of industrial and scientific application domains of strategic interest to Canada. NCRN will accelerate research progress and exploit it in areas of national importance and opportunity.

Like all robotic systems today, our approach is based on Internet enabled, learning-based autonomous systems that can be used in many fields of commercial and strategic importance. The network’s research agenda is driven by six distinct commercially viable motivating applications: UAV delivery, autonomous driving, automated mine inspection, forestry automation, collaborative assembly and service robotics.

Research Objectives and Outcomes

The Network coordinates research and technology transfer across eight universities and a large number of partner organizations, as well as a substantive number of highly qualified personnel (HQP) and a program of Distal and Senior Fellows.

Robotics is the discipline whereby artificial intelligence (AI) engages the world directly. There is a wide consensus that robotics will have large and diverse impacts on the world economy and Canadians’ lives. These include increases in productivity, demand and gross domestic product (GDP), competitiveness and standard of living. Robots allow AI to reach out of the data centre and do valuable work on our roads, in our warehouses, greenhouses, fields, forests, mines, hospitals, and homes. Canada is demonstrably a world-leader in both robotics and AI research. Our team of leading Canadian robotics researchers and organizations leverages that advantage and investment by enabling our partners to build new AI into robots that get real work done and improve Canada’s economy, health, and environment.

Robotics is a broad multi-faceted domain of embedded smart devices that depends critically on software infrastructure, human-machine interaction, computer vision, networking, and machine learning. Our network addresses the need to build robotic systems that go beyond merely moving in a controlled manner. We are interested in systems that can interact physically, naturally and safely with people, with other kinds of automated systems in the environment, and with complex natural landscapes. This includes formulating long-term plans, engaging in communication with other agents (human and robotic), and taking actions that have genuine value to their owners.

The NCRN is organized into two broad themes, acknowledging that there is a large amount of cross-interaction between them:

  • Interactive autonomy

    Which enables human operators to co-exist and collaborate with a wide range of realistic robotic systems.

  • Resilient autonomy

    Which expands purely autonomous behaviour to be robust enough for safe deployment in extreme environments for long-term missions.