​Speech by NTU President Professor Subra Suresh at the opening of the Max Planck-NTU Joint Laboratory for Artificial Senses

Published on : 17-Jan-2019

Speech by

Professor Subra Suresh
President, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Level B4, Academic Block North, ABN-B4C-25
61 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637335

Monday, 14 January 2019, 10 am

Your Excellency, Dr Ulrich Andreas Sante, German Ambassador to Singapore,
Professor Markus Antonietti, Director, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to NTU. 

Humanity’s drive in pushing the boundaries of science and technology to improve the quality of life has led to major industrial revolutions in history. We have witnessed the rapid transformation of manufacturing, laying the ground for unprecedented economic growth. As the world transitions into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology is now dominated by artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, robotics, and the rise of emerging industries such as personalised healthcare and medicine. 

Healthcare has shifted from a ‘one size fits all’ model, to one that uses tailored approaches to achieve the best possible outcomes in managing patients’ conditions. These days, wearable technologies and smart watches not only monitor your health but use AI to suggest, for example, on your food and calorie intake, optimal routes to work and home, and even overall body condition based on a variety of sensors. 

While the technological revolution we are witnessing today will undoubtedly reshape the 21st century human condition in many positive ways, there is also understandable anxiety about its potential downsides. It will depend not just on how we develop and deploy new technologies, but equally on how human behaviour interfaces with technologies and whether scientific advances lead to improvement in the human condition. This is precisely what today’s event is all about. 

Our partnership with the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI) today, will see the setting up of a new Max Planck-NTU Joint Laboratory for Artificial Senses. The joint lab aims to take robotics and medical technologies to the next level by combining human senses, AI, advanced materials, and machine learning. This will be beneficial for various industries, especially for healthcare as cutting-edge medical devices could reduce misdiagnosis, and allow customised precision medicine to deliver faster, better care to patients.

For example, through special sensors, prosthetic limbs would not only be able to monitor one’s health but could also restore sensory functions. The lab will look into extending human senses beyond its natural capabilities. Imagine being able to see or hear radar frequencies or microwaves, or smell infections or genetic patterns, or sense earthquakes. Safety officers will be able to detect chemical leaks in a factory, and meteorologists can identify subtle tectonic movements, providing earlier earthquake warnings. Such innovations will not only impact industry but change the way people live and work, for a better tomorrow.

Located at NTU, the joint lab is MPICI’s first venture in Southeast Asia. Besides healthcare, it will explore digital and environmental technologies, advanced materials, and robotics. The joint lab will house 30 researchers and staff from NTU and MPICI and also serve as a launch pad for scientists, engineers and students to interact and further develop their research ideas. 

NTU is proud to partner MPICI, part of the prestigious Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Sciences. Established in 1911, the Society is one of the world’s leading research organisations that not only galvanises numerous fields of science, but also adopts a holistic and multidisciplinary approach in research. This includes a wide range of disciplines such as natural and life sciences, engineering, biomedical science, and recently, the arts, social sciences and humanities. 

NTU is equally committed to these values. The NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH) serves as a forum for multidisciplinary research, policy discussions, and activities that address how human behaviour will interface with technologies to impact the human condition. NTU's aspiration is to play a pivotal role in shaping a balanced discussion of the many benefits of technological innovation as well as of their unintended consequences.

The university is active in AI research. In a ranking jointly compiled by Nikkei and Elsevier that measures research citations between 2012 and 2016, NTU is ranked the top university in the world for AI. Our lush 200-hectare campus is also a living testbed for cutting-edge technologies which range from autonomous vehicles and green technologies, to advanced robotics, AI, drones and air traffic management solutions. 

The collaboration today will further boost NTU’s Smart Campus vision, where we harness the power of digital and advanced technologies to support the discovery of new knowledge, and promote better learning and living experiences. This partnership is also a reflection of NTU’s continuous drive towards research excellence where we work closely with leading international partners to develop solutions that will benefit humanity.

Without further ado, I am delighted to witness the opening of the joint lab with MPICI. I wish the partnership every success as it pushes the forefront of healthcare, robotics and advanced materials. 

Thank you.

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