Cardiff University researchers to create “chatty factories” of the future

Researchers at Cardiff University are working on a £1.5 million project to explore ways artificial intelligence technology can be used to transform manufacturing.

They’re looking to develop a system that would see products talk to the factory floor, which could potentially transform the modern manufacturing process.

The specialists give the example of a bike helmet that sends a text message to your phone if a crack is detected. At the same time, this information cloud also be sent to the manufacturer.

Using this data, they could adjust their processes and improve the next batch of bike helmets straight from the production line. Immediately, product insight is improved.

Over the next three years, the researchers will look to take advantage of the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, which is allowing devices to communicate to each other.

“By embedding sensors into products that we use in our daily lives, the goal is to create one seamless process that is capable of continuously changing products based on data from the users,” the researchers explained.

The project, called Chatty Factories, is aimed at improving efficiency in manufacturing. It’ll use artificial intelligence to transform consumer research, concept design and prototyping.

It’s being funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and involves support from the University of Edinburgh, University of Nottingham, Lancaster University and Bath Spa University.

Principal investigator Dr Pete Burnap, from Cardiff University’s school of computer science and informatics, said: “The current manufacturing process is limited by the inability to quickly and continuously refine product design based on a consumer’s experience.

“If manufacturers are creating high-end bikes worth thousands of pounds, but they are not being used as they are intended, how do we update the fabrication issues and reshuffle the factory floor between shifts, telling human and robot workers how to alter their duties within minutes?

“Our new method will enable manufacturers to sense the experience of the product, building something based on its actual use rather than its intended use.”