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Leading figures in human computer interaction converge in Lincoln

The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is the inspiration for this year’s British Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI 2015), hosted by the University of Lincoln, UK.

HCI 2015, which takes place from 13th-17th July, will focus on our ever-evolving digital society and the role interactive technology plays in mediating and communicating political views. A total of 220 delegates from 18 countries will be in attendance.

Organised by Lincoln’s Social Computing (LiSC) research centre, the conference is inspired by the anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215, an event viewed as an international cornerstone of liberty and one that challenged society’s relationship with authority

Director of LiSC, Professor Shaun Lawson said: “Lincoln is home to one of only four surviving copies of Magna Carta and will take a major role in the 800th anniversary celebrations coinciding with our hosting of HCI 2015. The theme reflects the increasing public consciousness of how interactive technologies fundamentally affect our privacy, rights, and relationships with authority, government and commerce.

“This conference will set the agenda in the UK and internationally around the design of future interactive digital systems. The research community used to be interested in the use and design of a device, but now it’s more about the experience and the way digital technology affects our lives, including our political and democratic lives.”

The keynote speakers, Chris Csikszentmihalyi, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, will discuss how Magna Carta is more relevant than ever in an age where interactive digital technology constantly shapes our lives and our relationships with each other, as well as those in authority.

Assange, for instance, has recently spoken about the Wikileaks’ claim that “top secret intelligence reports and technical documents” from the US National Security Agency (NSA) state it spied on communications by successive French Presidents from 2006-12.

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World-first in showing clinical-quality Proton CT for treatment of cancer

An international team of researchers will for the first time be able to demonstrate clinical-quality Proton CT to improve Proton Therapy in the treatment of cancer – moving a step closer to this improved treatment method being used to help those suffering with certain forms of cancer, particularly for children and young people.

Led by Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering Nigel Allinson MBE, from the University of Lincoln, UK, the pioneering PRaVDA (Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications) project is developing one of the most complex medical instruments ever imagined to improve the delivery of proton beam therapy.

The team has time on the South African National Cyclotron (a type of particle accelerator), near Cape Town, and hopefully later this year will have a world-first in showing clinical-quality Proton CT.

Professor Allinson said: “The uncertainties in where the protons lose their energy and do damage (tumour or healthy tissue) will only be eliminated by using the same type of radiation, Protons, to image and to treat. By delivering clinical quality Proton CT images, this project will greatly improve the treatment of cancer using proton therapy. Such therapy is particularly useful in the treatment of young people, those with brain tumours, and eventually it may help such stubborn cancers as lung cancer.

“It has been an extraordinary engineering feat – certainly the most complex piece of engineering undertaken at the University of Lincoln. It has involved the active involvement of six universities, four NHS Trusts, National Research Laboratories in South Africa, two specialist sub-contractors and numerous UK and European suppliers.

“The system including detectors of the type used in the Large Hadron Collider and CMOS imagers like those to be found in your smartphone but 500 times larger and working 20 times faster. There is enough processed silicon wafers to make more than 25,000 iPhone cameras. The data output of the system is equivalent to over 300 HDTV channels.”

The innovation will assist radiotherapists by helping them to achieve accurate proton CT images. Nearly half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their curative treatment, and most radiotherapy is delivered using high-energy external beams of x-rays. Proton beam therapy, however, uses a different type of beam to conventional radiotherapy. It uses a high-energy beam of protons. Like x-rays, protons can penetrate tissue to reach deep tumours. However, compared to x-rays, protons cause less damage to healthy tissue in front of the tumour, and no damage at all to healthy tissue lying behind, which greatly reduces the side effects of radiation therapy.

There are uncertainties in exactly where the protons will lose most of their energy and hence kill the tumour while not adversely affect healthy tissue. For a tumour 20cm deep inside a patient, this uncertainty is about 1.5 cm. Using Proton CT will eliminate all of these errors.

In November 2014 the consortium received a prestigious Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Award, named as the winner in the Model-Based Engineering category.

The project is funded by The Wellcome Trust.

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International medical imaging conference coming to Lincoln

The University of Lincoln, UK, is to host the next Annual Conference in Medical Image Understanding and Analysis (MIUA).

The conference, which takes place from the 15-17 July, provides an opportunity to present and discuss research in medical image understanding and analysis and its real-world applications.

This year’s keynote lectures are delivered by four eminent academics: Professor Brian F. Hutton from University College London; Professor Tim Cootes from the University of Manchester; Professor Alejandro Frangi from the University of Sheffield; and Associate Professor Alfredo Ruggeri from the University of Padua, Italy.

In addition, there will be two pre-conference tutorials by Professor Philip Evans from the University of Surrey and Dr Charalampos Tsoumpas, from the University of Leeds.

The MIUA 2015 conference is being organised by Dr Tryphon Lambrou and Dr Xujiong Ye, from the Laboratory of Vision Engineering (LoVE), based in Lincoln’s School of Computer Science.

The University of Lincoln was chosen to host the 19th MIUA because of its varied and growing research in medical imaging.

MIUA, which took place at Royal Holloway in Egham (near London) in July 2014, will include both oral and poster presentations.

Selected papers will be invited to submit extended version of the papers to an ISI indexed journal.

Click here to register or e-mail miua2015@lincoln.ac.uk for more information.

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Computer vision and mobile technology could help blind people ‘see’

Computer scientists are developing new adaptive mobile technology which could enable blind and visually-impaired people to ‘see’ through their smartphone or tablet.

Funded by a Google Faculty Research Award, specialists in computer vision and machine learning based at the University of Lincoln, UK, are aiming to embed a smart vision system in mobile devices to help people with sight problems navigate unfamiliar indoor environments.

Based on preliminary work on assistive technologies done by the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems, the team plans to use colour and depth sensor technology inside new smartphones and tablets, like the recent Project Tango by Google, to enable 3D mapping and localisation, navigation and object recognition. The team will then develop the best interface to relay that to users – whether that is vibrations, sounds or the spoken word.

Project lead Dr Nicola Bellotto, an expert on machine perception and human-centred robotics from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said: “This project will build on our previous research to create an interface that can be used to help people with visual impairments.

“There are many visual aids already available, from guide dogs to cameras and wearable sensors. Typical problems with the latter are usability and acceptability. If people were able to use technology embedded in devices such as smartphones, it would not require them to wear extra equipment which could make them feel self-conscious. There are also existing smartphone apps that are able to, for example, recognise an object or speak text to describe places. But the sensors embedded in the device are still not fully exploited. We aim to create a system with ‘human-in-the-loop’ that provides good localisation relevant to visually impaired users and, most importantly, that understands how people observe and recognise particular features of their environment.”

The research team, which includes Dr Oscar Martinez Mozos, a specialist in machine learning and quality of life technologies, and Dr Grzegorz Cielniak, who works in mobile robotics and machine perception, aims to develop a system that will recognise visual clues in the environment. This data would be detected through the device camera and used to identify the type of room as the user moves around the space.

A key aspect of the system will be its capacity to adapt to individual users’ experiences, modifying the guidance it provides as the machine ‘learns’ from its landscape and from the human interaction. So, as the user becomes more accustomed to the technology, the quicker and easier it would be to identify the environment.

The research team will work with a Google sponsor and will be collaborating with specialists at Google throughout the ‘Active Vision with Human-in-the-Loop for the Visually Impaired’ project.

Below is an interview with Dr Bellotto on BBC Radio Lincolnshire:

A PhD position is now available to work on this project. Click here for further details.

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Linda the robot stars on TV’s Gadget Man

A robot called Linda developed by computer scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, has appeared on Channel 4’s Gadget Man.

In the fourth series of the technology show, presenter Richard Ayoade test-drives new technological devices designed to make life easier.

In an episode exploring the theme Health and Safety, aired at 8.30pm on Monday 22nd June, Ayoade tests security devices with actor Keith Allen and comedian Bill Bailey, including a post-apocalypse survival kit that also works at festivals.

Fearing that the world is a dangerous place for Gadget Man, Ayoade employs the services of Linda the robot to guard his home.

Linda, who is based in the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, is named after the city’s Roman roots as Lindum Colonia. The specialist mobile robot is currently being programmed to act intelligently in real-world environments, with the ultimate aim of being able to support security guards or staff in care homes.

She is one of six robots involved in the £7.2 million collaborative STRANDS project aimed at creating mobile robots that are able to operate independently, based on an understanding of 3D space and how this space changes over time.

Funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework programme (FP7), the research project involves six academic partners, a security company and an Austrian care home provider, where the technology will be tested.

The robots have just finished a month-long deployment at Haus der Barmherzigkeit care facility in Austria, as they continue to develop an understanding of how the world should appear and be able to identify deviations from their normal environment.

The trial tested how long the robots could autonomously complete simple tasks in a real-life hospital environment without human support. Beside frequent patrols through the corridors, the robots also guided visitors, residents and members of staff to offices or seminar rooms, and accompanied physio-therapeutic walking groups twice a week.

Linda’s TV debut is not her first high profile public appearance. The robot was also chosen to be part of Universities Week 2014 which aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities. She greeted and interacted with visitors to the Natural History Museum in London during the week-long event in June 2014.

Dr Marc Hanheide, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, who is working on the STRANDS project with colleague Professor Tom Duckett, said: “It’s fantastic that Linda is still getting out and about, as a key aim for this project is to show people how this sort of technology could help us in our everyday lives.”

To view the episode click here.

Linda on Gadget Man set

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