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ARIA director Jenny Read

Prof Jenny Read appointed as ARIA director

Published on: 12 September 2023

Professor of Vision Science, Jenny Read, has been announced as one of the founding Programme Directors of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, ARIA.

ARIA is a non-departmental public body, sponsored by the UK Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

The Research and Development funding agency which is backed by £800m over the next four years, ARIA aims to unlock scientific and technological breakthroughs to benefit everyone in the UK.

Professor Read from Newcastle University, is one of ARIA’s eight founding Programme Directors, each of whom are scientists and engineers with diverse fields of expertise and a range of experience across industry, academia and government. 

Her research focusses on insect stereoscopic depth perception, developing a new stereoscopic vision test for children, and using optical coherence tomography retinal scans to detect early signs of neurological disease.

Prof Read says: "Originally trained in physics, I’ve spent over 25 years as a computational visual neuroscientist, specialising in “3D” or stereo depth perception. Now, as an ARIA Programme Director, I plan to move to an adjacent area: robotics.

"I’ve long felt we could do science ‘better’, specifically through more effective, interdisciplinary collaboration. Coming into the field with fresh eyes, I’ll look to facilitate links between fields that too rarely connect. Most importantly, I believe there is enormous untapped potential for robots to help humans build a secure and prosperous future."

Praying mantis which informs Prof Read's research on insect 3D vision

Each programme director will set out to develop a vision of what the future will look like through a four-stage process. They will question the status quo, bound an opportunity space worth exploring, formulate a core hypothesis to underpin a programme, and launch a programme for solicitation from the wider research and development community.

The questions that Professor Read will be looking to answer in the programme include;

What single breakthrough in robotics would have the equivalent impact of the transistor in setting the foundation for a world-changing industry?

Nanobots have great potential in medicine: delivering drugs, electrical stimulation or diagnostics exactly where they are needed in the body. What would take this from in vitro to in vivo?

Insects display many complex abilities — stereoscopic depth perception, flight control, metacognition, counting — that are challenging for robots and/or were previously believed to require large brains. How are insects achieving such behaviour, and what can roboticists learn from them?

How complex could a robot be and still biodegrade completely into non-toxic components?

Learn more on the ARIA website

Praying mantis in 3D glasses
Praying mantis wearing 3D glasses in Prof Read's research at Newcastle University

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