The future is now

The future is now

At the KMITL Innovation Expo, students and researchers showcase the latest advancements in robotics and AI

The future is now
A train made by researchers at the Faculty of Engineering at KMITL. King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)

At KMITL Innovation Expo 2024 this weekend offers an impressive deep dive into the forefront of technological advancements in the country.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore six innovation clusters -- Bio Circular Green (Agriculture & Food); Industry 4.0; Health & Wellness; Digital & AI; Smart City; and Creative Economy.

Poom Konghuayrob, head of robotics and AI at the School of International Engineering, will introduce inventions that promise to grab the attention of visitors.

A train made by researchers at KMITL will also be exhibited at the event. Inspired by the first-class section of a passenger plane, the train's interior was designed to look luxurious.

"Researchers designed an infotainment system for the train. They also created a system that allows passengers to purchase digital tickets. Another highlight, a mobile robot named Bogie, was designed to serve food to passengers on the train," explained Poom.

"Autonomous cars, created by our students, feature a routing system powered by AI. In collaboration with Seagate, the AI system determines routes after considering fuel efficiency and calculating the quickest arrival. This AI system can be applied in logistical systems also to reduce manual calculations required by humans. For example, in a scenario with multiple autonomous cars which have to stop at various destinations, the system calculates the optimal routes to minimise energy consumption."

Poom Konghuayrob, head of the Department of Robotics and AI Engineering at the School of International Engineering, KMITL. King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)

In addition to the devices mentioned above, Poom also highlighted mobile high-flow oxygen concentrators developed by the Department of Robotics and AI Engineering during the Covid-19 pandemic. These high-flow oxygen concentrators are sophisticated respiratory therapy devices that provide an elevated supply of oxygen to patients in need, ranging from 21% to 100%. The concentrators can be controlled by a mobile phone to minimise the risk of exposure to Covid-19.

Established in 2018, the Department of Robotics and AI Engineering has consistently delivered noteworthy innovations. Although some people are concerned that robotics and AI may have a negative impact on society, the devices at KMITL Innovation Expo 2024 demonstrate they can improve human lives.

"Robotic and AI engineers can work in automation in factories or with software for fintech, which is technology for finance. They can create AI for fintech predictions such as identifying target clients or predicting stock trends. Our students learn about both hardware and software, so they can take on the role of salespeople or service people in a technology field," Poom explained.

KMITL is one of the few universities in Thailand that offers a degree programme in robotics and AI in English, which makes it stand out from other universities. Poom pointed out that KMITL's aspiring engineers are unique because learning is mainly focused on practice, not lectures. Students will mostly be assigned hands-on projects.

"From the first semester, the programme requires students to participate in a team project, so they learn how to manage their project effectively," said Poom.

The infotainment system on the train. King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)

This year, half of the students in their junior year will have the opportunity to do their internships abroad.

"By next year, we plan to offer international internships to all students. In the past, we organised a seven-day overseas field trip. Now, we want to make it a two-month programme. We have established connections with 300-400 research labs, universities and manufacturers in many countries, including Japan, South Korea, France, the UK and the US. We offer partial financial support for these overseas internships, but students may still have to shoulder some additional costs," Poom explained.

In addition to overseas internship, students will engage in a cooperative study with local manufacturers for four to six months during their final year. Following this, they will be required to create their own project.

There is also the option to participate in a dual degree programme. These programmes may involve studying in Thailand and abroad and graduates will receive two degrees.

KMITL has signed MoUs with several universities for these double degrees, including Huachiew Chalermprakiet University, the University of Birmingham in the UK, and Kyutech-Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.

Students at KMITL's robotics laboratory. King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)

Since the progress of AI has been remarkable, concerns have surfaced about ethical issues. When Poom was asked if his department had a class that emphasised AI ethics, he replied that there is no specific course, but instructors do cover it in a cybersecurity class.

"There is a red team, attackers, and a blue team, defenders, in the cybersecurity class and students learn which legal issues they will face if they are a member of the attacking team. For the defending team, they have to design a policy to train AI for protection. This includes ensuring the use of AI is ethical, compliant with laws and does not take advantage of or discriminate against any groups. When training AI, we should ensure there is a human to oversee the process," Poom emphasised.

Although many people worry about being replaced by AI, Poom commented that robotics and AI are not meant to replace humans, but rather to make our lives easier. However, people who work repetitive or routine jobs may be replaced.

"I once designed a robot for repetitive tasks like folding fabrics. When these robots replace workers in six-line production, they can work nonstop which results in increased productivity. People who used to work these repetitive jobs can transition to become robot controllers. As technology evolves, people will adapt and develop skills," he said.

People who are able to adjust to new technology, like engineering students at KMITL, will never have to worry about being replaced by AI. However, Poom acknowledges the digital divide and the need to address it. The knowledge gap between the tech-savvy and the non-tech-savvy will widen if nothing is done. He suggests that government and state agencies should reduce the gap by providing basic technological knowledge and other related information to underprivileged people and those in remote areas.

"Many people in remote areas have mobile phones, which can be used to learn about technology and other topics," Poom observed. "KMITL collaborates with learning centres nationwide, especially the Phuket Creativity and Innovation Center, which organises monthly activities related to robotics and AI. We also offer the Robotics and AI Camp online and on-site, and we see students from all over the country participating in the online programme. The government should support schools and universities to provide nationwide access to knowledge online," concluded Poom.

A mobile robot, Bogie, was designed to serve food to passengers on the train. King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)

King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)

KMITL's robotics laboratory.

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