The core of the collaborative research project between Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Virginia Tech (VT, formally the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) is to use Borneo’s biodiversity to crack a technical problem and how to make use of machines that can do things for itself.
This was pointed by Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Director BIST Center, VT Dr Rolf Muller in an interview with the Bulletin yesterday, adding that Brunei’s rainforest have animals capable of the purpose.
“So what we want to do is bring technology here and continue with both hardware and artificial intelligence software to look precisely at how these animals do amazing things that they do and understand that,” he said.
The collaborative research initiative between UBD and VT serves to leverage on biodiversity resources by transforming them into bio-inspired engineering in digital technologies.
A ceremony was held to mark the official opening of the research collaboration at UBD yesterday, attended by UBD senior management, staff, as well as UBD and VT students and representatives from the industry sector.
Also present was UBD Vice-Chancellor Dr Hazri bin Haji Kifle and Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Public Affairs Officer of the Embassy of the United States to Brunei Darussalam Jeff Barrus.
UBD’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Global Affairs Dr Joyce Teo Siew Yean officially inaugurated the UBD-VT international collaboration.
She highlighted that Brunei has one of the richest rainforest biodiversities in the world where it is home to at least 6,000 species of vascular plants and accounted for 644 amphibians, birds, and reptile species.
She stressed on the importance of sustainable development and the role of bio-inspiration and biomimicry by utilising technological-oriented approach to develop innovative ways in preserving diverse biological habitats.
The collaboration will lead to innovative research outcomes and develop local capacity building in the field.
Meanwhile, VT Vice President Dr Guru Ghosh and the Dean of Engineering at VT Dr Julia Ross thanked UBD for providing the platform to make the research possible.
The combination of engineering and appreciation of biodiversity offers a prime opportunity to bring next-generation bioinspired engineering solutions to key locations within the ASEAN region and will result in better documentation, hence lasting preservation of the biodiversity of the whole region.
They also stressed the importance of international collaborations and celebrated the achievement of combining the outstanding biodiversity of Brunei and the pertinent scientific expertise at UBD with VT’s 150-year-long tradition in cutting-edge engineering.
Dr Rolf Muller in his presentation noted that autonomous systems have always been a challenge for engineers and autonomy in complex natural environments has been an elusive goal for decades.
“I hope that by drawing from more than 100 million years of evolution in the rainforests of Brunei, the research team will finally come up with solutions to bring the full force of autonomy to bear on all our pressing problems that are associated with natural environments,” he said.
Yesterday’s event concluded with a technical exhibition and a lab tour of the UBD-VT Science and Technology Research Laboratory – a research laboratory equipped with powerful and unique hardware such as 50-camera high-speed video array and biomimetic 3D printed robots.