Artificial Intelligence over 5G Networks to Aid Robotics

22 November 2017

AI over 5G

How will artificial intelligence (AI) work over wireless 5G networks to help robotics – and allow greater levels of interaction between people and systems? Huawei’s Wireless X Labs and University of Edinburgh’s new Bayes Centre will be investigating just that after signing a research cooperation deal that will prioritise connected robotics.

Announced at the 2017 Global Mobile Broadband Forum, researchers will be initially focusing on healthcare robotics and mobile video, and specifically on how AI systems can inform and adapt wireless 5G networks.

Healthcare robotics is thought to be one of the prime areas that can be revolutionised by artificial intelligence using the kind of super-fast wireless networks promised by 5G. On a basic level, that could include doctors examining a patient in remote location using a telepresence unit. That would take advantage of 5G's ultra-low latency – as low as one millisecond – to create real-time communications. The University of Edinburgh and Huawei will be investigating whether such wireless mobile video systems can take advantage.

On a more advanced level, those same characteristics of 5G could enable robotic surgical assistants to complete delicate procedures, essentially allowing surgeons to control robotic arms to operate on a patient either in the same room, or in another location altogether, and with machine-like accuracy.

These kind of 'haptic' (real-time touch) systems that mimic hand and wrist movements of a human in a robotic arm may require millimetre wave frequency wireless broadband only in limited geographical areas, such as within an operating theatre of a hospital. Examples might include a surgeon working on particularly delicate area like the eye, or could allow a surgeon to work using a real-time 3D map view of the brain that's constantly refreshed. 5G and AI could allow them to carrying-out a robotic operation where a human hand would not be steady enough. Given a super-fast wired broadband between two geographically distinct, 5G-equipped operating theatres, it could also be possible for surgeons to work remotely.

The University of Edinburgh already conducts research into AI and autonomous systems, and Huawei and the University of Edinburgh have an existing relationship; the Bayes Centre – a joint lab – opened in June 2017 at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics.

Previously the University of Edinburgh partnered with National Instruments in 2013 to test massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) techniques to improve indoor wireless communications capacity, which is now seen as a core 5G technology. 

Useful reading : How Fast is 5G?

Image credit: Shutterstock

Technical Writer at

Jamie has been writing journalism, books and white papers about science & nature for 20 years.

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