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Dr Ze Ji

Dr Ze Ji

Senior lecturer
Teaching and research

School of Engineering

Email
jiz1@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0017
Campuses
Room C/1.07, Queen's Buildings - South Building, 5 The Parade, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 3AA
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

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I maintain my personal website externally. 
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I am a senior lecturer of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the School of Engineering, Cardiff University. I am also the co-leader of the Cross-Cutting research theme of AI and Robotics, and co-investigator/theme leader of the IROHMS (Research Centre for AI, Robotics and Human Machine Systems) funded by ERDF through WEFO.

I am the associate editor of the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science and IEEE Access

I am managing the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory, which provides cutting-edge robotic facilities, including two Kuka Lbr iiwa robots, Robotnik Vogue, three Kuka youbots, some turtlebots, some drones, advanced vision systems (3D cameras, etc), and sensors. We have also built two USVs (unmanned surface vehicles) with student projects in the past years. 

I have held multiple positions as a robotics and autonomous systems researcher and engineer in both academia and industry (Dyson, Lenovo, and Autonomous Surface Vehicles). My PhD was sponsored as part of the EU FP6 project, TAI- CHI (Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer Human Interaction), which won the best exhibit prize of EU FP6 exhibition in Helsinki, Finland, in 2006.

I have broad experience in robotics, including indoor mobile robots, industrial robot manipulators, humanoid robots, and outdoor unmanned autonomous surface vehicles. My research is primarily focused on Robot Perception And Learning (RoPAL), covering a broad range of subjects, including simulataneous localisation and mapping (SLAM), robot vision, robot reinforcement learning, tactile sensing, deep learning, smart sensing, and their applications on autonomous robot navigation, manipulation and, more broadly, smart manufacturing.

At Dyson, as a robotics systems engineer, I have filed and published patents in the area of mobile robotics. The main project there was the Dyson 360 robot, which utilises a 360 camera for indoor localisation and mapping (Visual SLAM). I worked at Lenovo on service robotics, as a Robotic Systems Architect and Technical Leader of a team of 10 researchers and engineers with background of machine learning, computer vision, slam, cloud, and IoT. At ASV (Autonomous Surface Vehicles), I have successfully, as a core research member, delivered several projects funded by innovate UK, DSTL, and NOC/SBRI. Before these, I had been working as a research fellow in academia for a number of EU FP6 & FP7 projects, such as TAI-CHI, IWARD (Intelligent Robot Swarm for Attendance, Recognition, Cleaning, and Delivery), ROBOSKIN (Skin-based technologies and capabilities for safe, autonomous and interactive robots), and SRS (Multi-Role Shadow Robotic System for Independent Living).

Here is the group Github account for projects carried out with our RoPAL team.

Biography

Education

  • 2007: PhD (Systems Engineering) Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  • 2003: MSc (Computer Science) University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • 2001: BEng (Electronic Engineering), Jilin University, China

Honours and awards

  • Won the best Exhibit for the EU FP6 project TAI-CHI "Tangible Acoustic Interface for Human Computer Interaction" in EC IST Exhibition, Helsinki, Finland, 2006
  • Best paper award, TAROS, Bristol, 2018
  • Second Prize in the International Marine Vehicle Design and Construction Invitational Contest 2019, Harbin, China

Professional memberships

  • Member of IEEE
  • Member of the British Machine Vision Association (BMVA)
  • Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Member of The Society of Research Software Engineering

Academic positions

  • 2020 - present: Senior Lecturer of robotics and autonomous systems, Cardiff University
  • 2016 - 2020: Lecturer of robotics and autonomous systems, Cardiff University
  • 2014 - 2016: Unmanned Systems Engineer (R&D), ASV ltd
  • 2013 - 2014: Robotics Systems Engineer (R&D), Dyson Ltd
  • 2009 - 2011: Research Fellow, Adaptive System Research Group, University of Hertfordshire
  • 2007 - 2013: Research Fellow, Cardiff University

Speaking engagements

Committees and reviewing

  • Associate Editor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems section of the “Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C (JMES)” (since 2021)
  • Technical Program Committee of the IEEE ISRIMT 2021 (The 3rd international symposium on Robotics and Intelligent Manufacturing Technology) conference organised by Hohai University, China.
  • Regional chair and session chair of IEEE ICCSE 2021 
  • Associate Editor of IEEE Access (since 2020)
  • International Programme Committee of KES 2021 conference
  • Reviewer of several international journals, including
    • IEEE Sensors Journal,
    • IEEE Transactions on Robotics
    • IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
    • IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems
    • IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RAL)
    • Journal of Field Robotics
    • Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing
    • Measurement Science and Technology,
  • and reviewers for several major conferences, including ICRA, IROS, CASE etc

Publications

2022

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2007

Teaching

2019-2022

  • EN3062 Robotics and Image Processing (Module leader)
  • EN4062 Advanced Robotics (Module leader)
  • EN4110 Mechatronics Design

2018-2019

  • EN4110 Mechatronics Design
  • EN3062 Robotics and Image Processing
  • EN4062 Advanced Robotics
  • ENT604 Measurement Systems (Module Leader)

2017-2018

  • EN4100 Mechatronics Design
  • EN4062 Advanced Robotics
  • ENT604 Measurement Systems (Module Leader)

2016-2017

  • EN4100 Mechatronics Design
  • ENT604 Measurement Systems
  • Others, including Design and Lab

We envisage an enhanced robot cognitive capability through deploying advanced multi-modal perceptual capabilities from sensors of vision, tactile, lidar, etc, and continuous self-learning to understand the environment in 3D, predict situations via machine/deep learning, and support humans for real-world problems. We aim to endow a higher level of autonomy to robots and unmanned systems, providing capabilities of advanced situation awareness, multi-modal sensing, robot active learning, localisation and mapping, optimal path planning, and multiple robot collaboration.

My group’s research interests can be loosely divided into the following areas:

  • Deep Reinforcement Learning for robot navigation and manipulation
  • State Estimation, e.g. Visual SLAM and Visual Odometry
  • Sensor-guided autonomous robot navigation and manipulation
  • Multi-modal robot sensing, such as robot vision, tactile sensing, etc.
  • Computer Vision and Data-driven learning-based methods for smart manufacturing, including in-situ monitoring, surface 3D metrology, robotic assembly and so on

Contracts

Investigators

Sponsor

Value

Title

Duration

Haijiang Li, Abhishek Kundu, Ze Ji (CoI)

Industry partners: Centregreat Rail, Crouch Waterfall, Centregreat Engineering)

SmartExpertise

£111,884 

DIGIBRIDGE: Physics-informed digital twin supported smart bridge maintenance 

Nov 2021 - Dec 2022

Ze Ji

Industry (Spirent) - Full-time PhD studentship

£32,000

Reinforcement Learning for autonomous navigation with GNSS-based localisation

2021 - 2024

Haijiang Li, Ze Ji (Co-I, Knowledge Supervisor), Abhishek Kundu

Innovate UK/KTP

£280,000

BIM and Digital Twins in support of Smart Bridge Structural Surveying

Sep 2021-Sep 2024

Ze Ji

Royal Society

£17,812

Active Robot Learning for Subtractive, Formative, and Additive Manipulations of Granular and Viscous Materials

09 Mar 2020 - 08 Mar 2021

Setchi, R., Ji, Z., (ENGIN)

Jones, D., Morgan, P., (PSYCH)

Allen, S., Eslambolchilar, P. (COMSC)

ERDF/WEFO

£4,600,000 (including match funding from Cardiff University)

Research Centre in AI, Robotics and Human-Machine Systems (IROHMS)

1 Apr 19 – 1 Sept 23

Bigot, S., Ji, Z., Packianather, M., Kerfriden, P.

EU H2020

€ 476,000

Additive Manufacturing using Metal Pilot Line (MANUELA)

Oct 2018 - Sep 2022

Setchi, R., Ji, Z., Evans, S.

Endevr/Airbus

£61,000

Deep Learning Enabled Wing Box Inspection (DEWI)

1 Jul 19 – 30 Sep 19

Ji Z (PI), Setchi R, Bigot S

Renishaw and Cardiff University Strategic Fund

£39,986

3D characterisation of ALM processes

01 Apr 2019 - 31 Mar 2020

Ji Z (PI), Wu J, Setchi R.

Renishaw and Cardiff University Strategic Fund

£40,000 cash funding from the strategic partnership fund (total project value: £101,332)

Pushing the boundary of vision-based 3D surface imaging

01 Apr 2018 - 31 Mar 2019

Setchi R., Ji Z.

WEFO through ASTUTE and Industry

£884,673 including £652,661 from Continental and £232,012 from WEFO

Additive Manufacturing and Robotics to Support Improved Response to Increased Flexibility

02 Feb 2018 – 01 Feb 19

Research Areas

Robot Reinforcement Learning:

Reinforcement Learning is a new emerging area that paves a new direction to allow robots to learn new skills for situations when hand-coding is not suitable.

The current work aims to research and develop a self-learning system for a robot to manipulate objects in cluttered workspace for tasks that require multiple steps. 

Watch a video of the research on YouTube

The following video shows the work of using Reinforcement Learning to train a robot to navigate and avoid collision. 

Watch the video of the research on YouTube

Mobile Robots:

One of my most valuable experience in this area is the work on the Dyson 360 Robot project. My interests include Robot Autonomous Navigation, Visual SLAM, Visual Servoing, and Vision Odometry

Watch a video of the research on YouTube

Another project is the EU FP7 project, SRS, which focused on the development and prototyping of remotely-controlled, semi-autonomous robotic solutions in domestic environments to support elderly people.

SRS project (Service Robot)

Autonomous Vehicles:

As part of my teaching activities (Mechatronics module), I led a few team of students in the past years to build USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) and UAVs.

Watch a video of the research on YouTube

Related research includes robot behaviours, such as computer vision and sensor fusion for collision avoidance, vehicle collaboration, situation awareness and action planning.

Sensing (Acoustic Localisation for Human Computer Interaction):

This is my very early research for my PhD project, which is part of a EU FP6 project, "Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer Human Interaction".

Tactile Sensing and Human Robot Interaction:

This is also my early research working as a research fellow for the EU FP7 project, RoboSkin, developing machine learning algorithms for recognising the types of human touch using large scale tactile sensors.

Supervision

I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • Robot Learning (Deep Reinforcement Learning)
  • State Estimation for autonomous navigation, e.g. SLAM, VO
  • Robotic Perception / Sensing / Visual Servoing for grasping and manipulation
  • Computer Vision / 3D Imaging
  • Tactile Sensing

Current Supervision

Current PhD students at Cardiff University:

  • Xintong Yang (2019 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning for task-oriented object manipulation
  • Feiqiang Lin (2019 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning for fail-safe localisation navigation
  • Prasad Rayamane (2019 - ): Optical Tactile Sensing for manipulation
  • Yan Gao (2020 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning-based autonomous exploration with hierarchical spatial representation
  • Fraser McGhan (2021 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning for robust autonomous navigation with GNSS-based localisation
  • Mr Nitin Shinde (2021 - ): Shared Perception for Human-Robot Collaboration
  • Yixin Chen (2021 - , MPhil): Visual SLAM for autonomous navigation
  • (Co-Supervisor) Peter Herbert (2020 - ): Visual SLAM
  • (Co-Supervisor) Jingwen Sun (2020 - ): Relational-learning for object-level scene representation and navigation

Current MSc/PhD students in collaboration with National University of Colombia:

  • Mr Juan S. Hernandez Reyes (MSc student): Reinforcement Learning for Robot Navigation

Current MSc students in collaboration with the University of Antwerp:

  • Ms Daniëlle Jongstra: Learning-based Robot Social Navigation
  • Mr Wei Wei: Grasping Regions through Learning and Computer Vision Techniques
  • Mr Kristof Egghe: Robot Manipulation in Clutter with Deep Reinforcement Learning

Current supervision

Prasad Rayamane

Prasad Rayamane

Research student

alt

Xintong Yang

Research student

Njuod Alsudays

Research student

Tao Wang

Research student

alt

Léopold Le Roux

Research student

Past projects