THEY are not quite taking over the world just yet, but robots could soon be talking and interacting with each other wirelessly without any human involvement.

Fears of “I, Robot” scenarios as envisaged by the sci-fi author Isaac Asimov can be ruled out, however, as the robots are going to be used to improve human activity such as medicine and communications, and Scottish scientists and researchers are to the fore in potentially world-beating projects.

It has been announced that Edinburgh University experts and Chinese global telecoms firm Huawei are to collaborate on the development of robots supported by next-generation wireless networks, known as 5G.

The contract for the new research partnership was signed this week by the University and Huawei – based in Shenzhen in China – at the 2017 Global Mobile Broadband Forum event in London.

Teams at Huawei’s Wireless X Labs and the University’s new Bayes Centre will focus on devices that operate using 5G networks.

This fifth generation of wireless connectivity is being developed to support data-driven innovation in areas, such as the internet of things, in which artificially intelligent (AI) objects can autonomously interact with one another.

According to Edinburgh University their team “will investigate how AI systems can use wireless 5G networks to provide optimum support for connected robotics and autonomous systems.”

The potential for human good is enormous. The partnership’s areas of initial focus will include healthcare robotics – such as automated surgical devices – and mobile video applications, such as smart webcams.

The University said: “The partnership will build on the University’s capabilities in AI and autonomous systems. It will explore how these systems will use AI to collaborate using next-generation mobile broadband networks.

“Such an approach could enhance the performance of both networks and applications, supporting greater interaction between people and computing systems.”

The growth of robotics is controversial, however. BT chief executive acknowledged as much in the latest Global Mobile Broadband Forum when he said: “The whole theme of AI is causing quite a bit of discussion – 50 per cent see AI as something that will create a lot of jobs and the other half think it will cause job losses.”

The project extends the existing data science relationship between Huawei and the University, following the announcement in June of a joint lab hosted at the University’s School of Informatics.

This new research cooperation was signed by Peter Zhou, chief marketing officer at Huawei Wireless Solution, and Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice Principal of the University.

Also in attendance were Professor Jon Oberlander, assistant principal data technology, who has joined the advisory committee of Huawei’s Wireless X Labs, and David Richardson, director of partnerships for the Bayes Centre.

Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “We are thrilled to have deepened our relationship with Huawei to researching 5G within AI applications. Our ambition is to utilise the knowledge of our world-leading experts to fully understand the interaction of AI and robotics systems with mobile networks.

“This new research agreement gives our team the opportunity to apply their 5G networking expertise into solving real-world problems – helping to transform industries including healthcare and emergency services.

Peter Zhou, chief marketing officer at Huawei Wireless Solution, said: “We are delighted to continue working with the world-leading team at the University of Edinburgh to help understand how improvements within mobile broadband can foster innovation within wireless robotics systems.

“AI is a key feature of 5G networking, and we are excited to deepen our understanding of how the interaction between applications and networks can create new benefits and enhancements.”