I see robotics as one of the ultimate artforms, blending the aesthetic and the functional to create something both autonomous and beautiful. In my work, I seek to translate the fluidity of biological motion into mechanical and mechatronic devices. I'm also interested in robots as a sociological phenomenon. In biology, ethologists argue that divorcing the animal from its environment detracts from our ability to understand its behaviour. Similarly, considering robots purely in the context of their mechano-sensory function is to divorce them from their ethology. Robots are designed by humans - aka social creatures - and while physics may govern a large part of robot functions, most aspects of their design are grounded in an historical - even an evolutionary - social contex.


Collective Construction for Autonomous Agents:

From 2015-2019 our NIH-funded project on autonomous collectives sought to investigate the mound-building behaviour of two species of Macrotermes. These ingenious insects construct elaborate temperature- and humidity-regulated mounds, in order to cultivate a delicate fungus that acts as their primary food source. From them, we hope to develop algorithms for autonomous construction that will allow robots to build elaborate, robust, multi-functional structures in hostile environments, such as disaster zones, or outer space. To facilitate this research, we developed novel multimodal vision systems and sensor arrays which were lightweight, robust, and could be effectively deployed in the remote deserts of Namibia. As a capstone, we created a bioimetic humidity-reactive robot, which will allow us to test algorithms on a small low-cost swarm of robots that react to humidity, and attempt to regulate their environment via a stigmergic process.

Responsible Social Robots

How do we integrate robots into society in ways that support, rather than disrupt, our most vulnerable populations? In particular, the proliferation of social robots in care services is raising questions about ethics, privacy, and and the nature of future human societies. Together with researchers in Australia and the UK, I am exploring the roles that robots should, and even more critically, should not play in care delivery. Although there is a burgeoning literature on the topic of robots in social and care settings, the majority of this commentary and evidence tends to revolve around their technical efficacy, their acceptability to consumers, or the legal ramifications of such innovations. Yet, there remains a serious lack of attention within the public policy and public management to the actual implementation of robots in care settings. See my Scientific American blog post for some additional thoughts: Can robots tighten the bolts on ...

Insect-Inspired Vision

In 2010, my colleagues and I at the Centre of Excellence in Cognitive Interaction Technology embarked on a project to develop low-cost polarisation-sensitive vision systems for UAVs, to enable them to navigate using polarised signals in the natural world, in the same way locusts, bees, and other insects do. This led to fruitful on-going collaborations, and presently myself, Martin Howe at University of Bristol, and Keram Pfeiffer at University of Wurzburg are working on creating cross-platform integrated vision software that will enable researchers to quickly and accurately reconstruct and analyse polarised images ( canopy_movie.mp4) . I am also an advisor on the related DFG-funded project No: HO 950/25-1 (Sky compass signaling of central-complex neurons in locusts exposed to the natural sky).


PM Bardunias, DS Calovi, N Carey, R Soar, JS Turner, R Nagpal, J Werfel , 8/7/2020" The extension of internal humidity levels beyond the soil surface facilitates mound expansion in Macrotermes." Proceedings of the Royal Society B 287 (1930), 20200894
NE Carey, DS Calovi, P Bardunias, JS Turner, R Nagpal, J Werfel , 15/10/2019" Differential construction response to humidity by related species of mound-building termites." Journal of Experimental Biology 222 (20), jeb212274
Daniel Calovi, Paul Bardunias, Nicole Carey, Scott J Turner, Radhika Nagpal, and Justin Werfel. 10/6/2019“ Surface curvature guides early construction activity in mound-building termites .” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
H. Dickinson, C. Smith, N. Carey, and G. Carey. 11/9/2018. Robots and the delivery of care services: What is the role for government in stewarding disruptive innovation? . ANZSOG Research Reports. Melbourne: Australia and New Zealand School of Government. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Paul Bardunias, Nicole Carey, Daniel Calovi, Rupert Soar, J.S. Turner, Radhika Nagpal, and Justin Werfel. 8/5/2018. “ Construction in the Macrotermitinae is governed by a stigmergically created humidity template.” In Proceedings of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects. Guarujá, Brazil.
Nicole Carey, Radhika Nagpal, and Justin Werfel. 5/15/2017. “Fast, Accurate, Small-Scale 3D Scene Capture Using a Low-Cost Depth Sensor.” Applications of Computer Vision (WACV), 2017 IEEE Winter Conference on, Pp. 1268-1276. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Gutierrez E. Hernandez J. McLendon R. Paterson A.C. Carey N. Dusek J. Nagpal R. Low Cost 2017 A and Engelstad, K. 2017. “A Low Cost Agile Robot for Outdoor Collectives.” In SCCUR 2017. Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research.
Gemma Carey, Brad Crammond, Eleanor Malbon, and Nicole Carey. 11/2015. “Adaptive Policies for Reducing Inequalities in the Social Determinants of Health.” Int J Health Policy Manag, 4, 11, Pp. 763–767. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Gemma Carey, Eleanor Malbon, Nicole Carey, Andrew Joyce, Brad Crammond, and Alan Carey. 2015. “Systems science and systems thinking for public health: a systematic review of the field.” BMJ Open, 5, 12. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Nicole Carey and Wolfgang Stürzl. 1/16/2012. “An Insect-Inspired Omnidirectional Vision System including UV-Sensitivity and Polarisation.” Computer Vision Workshops (ICCV Workshops), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, Pp. 312-319. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Wolfgang Stürzl and Nicole Carey. 2012. “A Fisheye Camera System for Polarisation Detection on UAVs.” Lecture Notes in Computer Science (ECCV 2012), 7584, Pp. 431-440. Publisher's VersionAbstract



Software Github archive for multimodal humidy-mediated construction robot, aka LEAKY https://github.com/niccarey/LEAKY Github archive for C++ implementation of Termite Scanner (micro 3D reconstruction using an Intel Realsense SR300) https://github.com/niccarey/TermiteScan Github archive for Build Analysis, a toolbox to handle RGB-D pointcloud analysis and manipulation in Matlab https://github.com/niccarey/RGBD-Environment-Analysis Older toolboxes: BeeTracker : http://www.niccarey.com/files/BeeTrack.zip