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5 research projects that could change the world

20 August 2019
Discover some of the ideas revealed at our research showcase
What do autonomous vehicles, cochlear implants and gut microbiomes have in common? They're all central to some of the ideas that were on display at Research Conversazione 2019, an event that gives our staff and students the platform to explain their ground-breaking research.

Research Conversazione 2019

1

Autonomous cars might be here before you know it

The idea of driverless cars roaring down any major motorway might seem scary, but did you know there are already autonomous vehicles driving around campus? Researchers at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, including Wei Zhou, are applying semantic segmentation to the vehicle’s camera footage, so that the car can see obstacles and gauge distances in order to drive itself safely around campus. They’re using data to build up a bank of data that can then create a map of the environment to make self-driving cars a reality.

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2

The Internet of Things will see us connected more than ever

The Internet of Things might seem confusing, but it simply refers to the idea that all the different ‘things’ in our lives – cars, fridges, phones and even clothing – are connected to the internet making them ‘smart’. But the internet is currently not nearly quick enough to handle this on a large scale – unless we pool resources. Mohammed Bahutair is working on a crowdsourced model that will allow us to share each other’s devices. Key to this is a trust management framework, so that this network is safe, secure, and ready for use by anyone and everyone!

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3

What’s inside our gut might be affecting our entire body 

More and more, we’re hearing that our gut microbiomes are crucial to our overall wellbeing – what we eat feeds us, but it also feeds our microbiomes. Alison Luk and other researchers from the Centre for Advanced Food Enginomics are researching the effect of dietary fibre – basically, carbs – on our gut microbiomes. Once we know the effect, we’ll be able to create healthier foods, full of the stuff that our microbiomes need to thrive. Their research will help inform us about what’s good for our gut, meaning that we can tailor our diets to support the health of our bodies.

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4

Cochlear implants could be optimised for even better hearing 

Cochlear implants allow those with impairments to regain hearing – a hugely beneficial invention. But they could be better – and that’s where Greg Watkins comes in. By looking at the Output Signal to Noise Ratio, which predicts speech intelligibility, he can calculate how well people hear with their cochlear implants and improve each individual’s hearing by tweaking the implant configurations. This would mean that every individual implant can be tailored to the recipient’s needs, drastically improving the output of the implant. As Greg puts it, the question should not be ‘Can I hear?’ but ‘How well can I hear?’

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5

We could be getting Netflix recommendations in real time 

It’s easy to take Netflix for granted – a library of television and film, all tailored to your viewing preferences. But the recommendations Netflix provides are based on weeks-old data. Oana Balmau’s research looks at key-value stores – cloud-like systems that handle huge amounts of data – and aims to make them more efficient and able to handle far more data, so your Netflix could be updated within seconds. This would also allow supermarkets to receive daily reports on how much produce is being purchased, helping to improve stock estimates and reduce food waste.

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If you want to learn more about how you can collaborate with our researchers, head to our industry partnerships page.

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