USJ undergrads bring Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat to life

(LtoR) Adhisha Gammanpila, Tehani Wanniarachchi, , Viraji Amarajeewa & Asela Wijesinghe

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already,” said author of the bestselling Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling. A group of researchers from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ) took this to heart when they set out to make a work of fiction into reality. 

For these aspiring young students at the university, the magical universe of Harry Potter was not something they could forget. A team of undergraduates from the Robotics and Intelligence Systems (RIS) Laboratory at the Computer Science Department, Faculty of Applied Sciences of USJ recently brought Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat to life. The hat, designed and developed by the undergrads, could not only read minds but was able to sort students into houses. Taking it a step further, in true Rowling fashion, the hat was capable of analysing brain activity for various medical and scientific purposes. 

Their brilliant creation has resulted in the team being selected as a global finalist at the Eleventh – International Conference on Social Robotics 2019 – Robot Design competition and will be representing Sri Lanka on November 26 at Madrid, Spain. 

The project was also exhibited at the ‘Innovate Sri Lanka 2019’ exhibition which was held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), organised by the Innovation, Invention and Venture Creation Council (IIVCC) of USJ. The project became the centre of attention with hundreds thronging to witness and try the sorting hat themselves. 

With rapid technological development in fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and high-power computational systems, the field of social robotics is one of the domains which brings previously mentioned technological areas together to build human-friendly and human-interactive robots to make the lives of the normal person easy. The International Conference on Social Robotics is considered to be one of the most iconic conferences held annually to showcase such new findings, developments in research areas and to provide a stage to compete for the best social robot design of the year. 

Annually, top-notch universities worldwide such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),   Stanford University and Harvard University vie for the ‘Best Robot Design Award’ title. This year, the team from USJ will compete with these celebrated universities as a global finalist. Needless to say their hopes of bringing the title home are high. 

The research team comprising Adhisha Gammanpila, Asela Wijesinghe, Tehani Wanniarachchi, Viraji Amarajeewa and Dovini Jayasinghe will be representing Sri Lanka and USJ in Spain. The team was guided by Dr. Ravindra de Silva, their supervisor for the project, Director at the Robotics and Intelligence Systems Laboratory (RIS) and senior lecturer at the Computer Science Department of Sri Jayewardenepura University, along with Research Assistant Udaka Manawadu. 

The team expressed their gratitude to Vice-Chancellor Prof. Sampath Amaratunge, Dean of the Applied Sciences Faculty, Prof. Laleen Karunanayake, Head of the Computer Science Department, Ananda Gamini along with the academic and non-academic staff at the department and all their fellow brothers and sisters. 

Let us all wish the team strength, courage, good health and best of luck to represent Sri Lanka at the upcoming global finale to bring home the championship thus marking Sri  Lanka on the world map for social robotics. 

- Computer Science Department, Applied Sciences Faculty, University  of Sri Jayewardenepura

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