Research Seminar Series: Navigation, neuroscience and neural networks: a quest to understand intelligence and build better robots

3 November 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Room 102, Ainsworth Building

Prof. Michael Milford
Queensland University of Technology

–  All Welcome  –


The goal of my research is to understand the fundamental nature of intelligence, so that we can both shed light on how the brain functions, and create intelligent, autonomous systems that transform society. My group models and mimics the neural mechanisms and behaviours underlying those most tangible aspects of intelligence such as navigation, perception and recognition. Our inspiration? The amazing natural world around us, including rats, insects, primates and even humans. Our tools? Robots, algorithms, innovative sensing modalities, computational neuroscience and artificial neural networks of all types including deep nets, continuous attractors and even spiking networks.

This talk will cover the highlights and lowlights of that journey, the advances made, the insights gained, and touch on where we are headed now. I’ll summarize a roboticist’s perspective on the neuroscience underlying one of the most well understood aspects of intelligence – spatial intelligence and perception – and describe how we have adapted this knowledge to create landmark robotics advances including RatSLAM’s mapping of an entire suburb using only a low cost webcam and persistent long term robot navigation autonomy trials.

I’ll describe our extensive work in creating robotic perception and navigation algorithms, both algorithmic (SeqSLAM) and bio-inspired, that function under even the most challenging of environmental conditions. I’ll also give an example of how research can transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, showing how robotics, neuroscience and deep learning can come together to create new techniques for data compression. Finally I’ll highlight how we are translating fundamental transdisciplinary science into applications including autonomous vehicles, environmental monitoring and vision-based positioning.


Michael MilfordMichael is an outstanding researcher and a multi-award winning educational entrepreneur. Currently he holds the position of Professor at the Queensland University of Technology, as well as Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Microsoft Research Faculty Fellow and Chief Investigator at the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.

He conducts interdisciplinary research at the boundary between robotics, neuroscience and computer vision.  His research has attracted more than twenty-two million dollars in research and industry funding and his and his team’s papers have won or been finalists for 11 best paper awards including winning the 2012 Best Vision paper at ICRA2012.

He has given more than 80 plenaries, keynotes and presentations at international conferences, top universities etc. across thirteen countries. He has collaborated with dozens of universities and corporations around the world including Harvard University, the US Air Force and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory etc. He was recently a finalist (top 3 nationwide) in the 2016 Australian Museum Eureka awards for Outstanding Early Career Researcher.

He has written and produced innovative textbooks for K-12 students for seventeen years. His new company Math Thrills Pty Ltd combines mass market entertainment and STEM education, and is rolling out in more than 200 schools around Australia. The initiative has attracted numerous funding as well as led to honours including the 2015 Queensland Young Tall Poppy of the Year Award and a 2015 TedXQUT talk.

Michael has dual citizenship between Australia and the United States, and has lived and worked in locations including Boston, USA and Edinburgh and London in the UK.


For more information, please contact Professor Chun Wang.

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