Exploring human-machine cooperation at the cutting edge of robotics

Despite the promises of science fiction, the prospect of fully autonomous robotics systems remains remote. Evolution beyond the automated systems of today will require a step-change in robot engineering, fabrication and machine learning techniques.

A paradigm of cooperative human-robotic interactions offers a novel route to practical applications in the nearer term, particularly in areas such as robotic surgery, by combining the unique perceptual and decision-making capabilities of humans with the novel sensing capabilities, precision, and resilience of machines. However, the changes will also challenge what it means to be human as our interactions with the world are increasingly mediated and evolving through technology.

"I'm curious about...whether robots will one day ‘disappear’ from view, as they are increasingly integrated into the fabric of life.Guang-Zhong Yang


Professor Guang-Zhong Yang is co-founder and director of the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College London. Building on research expertise in medical imaging, sensing and robotics, he holds leadership roles in multiple centres of excellence. He pioneered the concept of perceptual docking for robotic control and led the development of a number of medical robot platforms. He is a recipient of numerous international awards and currently leads the EPSRC UK-Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Network. His is also a member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Prof Yang is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the IEEE, amongst others, and recipient of the Royal Society Research Merit Award.


Prof Yang’s research explores the interacting roles of imaging, sensing and robotics in real-world applications that seek to improve the performance and outcomes of medical diagnostics, surgery and rehabilitation. Pioneering contributions to science include novel techniques to flow quantification in magnetic resonance imaging, establishment of the field of body sensor networks, and the development of perceptual docking as a paradigm for human-robotic interaction.

His work asks:

  • How can imaging, sensing and robotic technology extend and improve the capabilities of surgical performance?
  • What new monitoring and diagnostic capabilities are enabled through the integration of sensor technologies into existing artefacts such as wearables, smart surgical implants and instruments?
  • How can robotics systems usefully leverage the unique perceptual, planning and decision-making capabilities of humans?

Foresight and futures work

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Profile Credits

Profile: Kit Huckvale, Pete Papathanasiou