SoCS Research Seminar Series on 27/11/2015: Prof Nick Taylor (HWU)


The School of Computer Science is pleased to welcome Prof Nick Taylor (from Heriot-Watt University) for a research talk as part of the School’s research seminar series. Prof Taylor will be presenting current research from “The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics”.



Fri 27/11/2015, 10am


David Chiddick Building, Room BL1105 (1st Floor)


The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics harnesses the potential of 30 world leading investigators from 12 cross-disciplinary research groups and institutes across the Schools of Engineering & Physical Sciences and Mathematical & Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt University and the Schools of Informatics and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. Our research focuses on the interactions amongst robots, people, environments and autonomous systems, designed and integrated for different applications, scales and modalities. We aim to apply fundamental theoretical methods to real-world problems on real robots solving pressing commercial and societal needs. The Centre offers a 4 year PhD programme through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems and hosts the Robotarium national UK robotics facility.


Nick Taylor is a Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University and a Deputy Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. He was Head of Computer Science from 2008-2014 and leads the Pervasive, Ubiquitous and Mobile Applications (PUMA) Lab which he formed in 2010. He has been involved in robotics and machine learning research for over three decades, most recently with a particular interest in the personalisation of autonomous systems for pervasive environments. Nick took his A-levels at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School and then studied at Cardiff, London and Nottingham before joining Heriot-Watt University and settling in Midlothian.

Robot MARC opens new lab at The Priory Academy LSST

P1020640A 3D-printed robot has performed the official opening ceremony of a new robotics lab at The Priory Academy LSST in Lincoln.

MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion) from the University of Lincoln was the VIP guest who cut the ribbon – literally – on the school’s £110,000 facility.

MARC was created by Computer Science lecturer Dr John Murray for research into Human-Robot interaction.

Year 7 student Hannah Hemlin activated a pre-set computer programme and the obliging android did the rest, to the applause of pupils, staff and scientists from the university.

The robotics lab has been part-funded by a grant from the Wolfson Foundation, a charity which supports excellence in science and education. The new room boasts 15 high-spec computers, a 3D printer and a laser printer and will be used by Sixth Form engineering students at the academy.

Mr Robin Jones, Head of Technology at The Priory, said: “The new lab will be a fantastic asset for the school. The interest and excitement among students has been phenomenal and it’s wonderful to be able to offer these opportunities in the very latest technology.”

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Guests of honour Dr David Cobham, Head of the School of Computer Science at the university, and Professor Tom Duckett, who leads its robotics research centre, answered questions at a Year 8 assembly before also taking part in a workshop with Sixth Formers.

Dr Cobham said: “We are delighted to be opening the new robotics laboratory at The Priory Academy LSST. The computing and robotics industries are developing at an extremely rapid pace, so it is wonderful to see that school pupils in Lincolnshire have access to such important facilities to support their education.”

Professor Duckett added: “The research carried out by students and academics from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science is ground-breaking. From medical imaging to social computing and companion robots, our research specialisms are focussed on improving people’s quality of life, and we enjoy giving students the opportunity to take part in this exciting work.”


Tweetathon to mark Robin Hood Day

robin-hood-This Saturday (17th October) an international tweetathon is going to ‘fire an arrow round the world’ to celebrate International Robin Hood Day and you can get involved.

How you ask? Computer Science graduate Sean Oxspring has been working alongside Hitpoint Games to create an innovative game via Twitter that will aim to shoot Robin Hood’s arrow right round the globe through the power of people’s tweets.

Launching at 12pm this Saturday, all you have to do is tweet with the hashtag #robinhoodday

Every 5 minutes an arrow will be shot, so make sure to watch it fly here.

DON’T FORGET: The more tweets that are sent the further the arrow will travel.

Hitpoint Games has teamed up with a party of legends including Robin Hood, the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, William Tell and the Sheriff of Nottingham at the National Videogame Arcade in Hockley, Nottingham city centre to kick the tweeting off.
So get all your friends, family, dogs and cats accounts and don’t forget to tag #robinhoodday so you can be added as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men.
Let us know if you’re getting involved!

Debate the digital future with Frequency Festival


‘A Collider Conversation – Cybersalon Debate on Digital Bill of Rights’.

Friday 23rd October at 7.30-9pm
Cargill Lecture Theatre, Minerva Building, University of Lincoln (Brayford Campus)

Join this lively debate on the digital future and have your say on what a Magna Carta for the digital age might involve. Discuss our contemporary rights and liberties and the ways technology has influenced how we view our own freedoms.

In partnership with, Furtherfield will host a popular public debate with leading thinkers and activists including Dr Richard Barbrook (Westminster University, Centre for the Study of Democracy) , around recent calls for a Digital Bill of Rights. The world has just got a lot more complex, automation is eating the jobs and the future of humans and their rights has never been more uncertain.

This accessible debate will demystify the issues surrounding the politics of freedom and the Internet and set the scene for the festival.

Sign up for one of the 30 free places at this debate here. Don’t miss out! Tickets will sell out quickly.


We will be joined by Professor Raul Espejo, a Chilean participant of the first cybernetic revolution from 1972 and co-author of Cybersyn, the first decision support system to aid the management of national economy. Prof Espejo is now a resident of Lincoln and a supporter of Digital Bill of Rights.

He will be joined by Eva Pascoe, co-founder of the first Internet Café Cyberia (1994), and a digital rights activist from Cybersalon.

Together with the audience, they will start to define a new framework for Digital Rights and explore how we might disrupt the seemingly inevitable progress of automation.

ALSO… Wanted: Digital Scribes for the night!

Your mission – to track the themes of the debate outlined above through the Festival and to record those via online blogs, helping to shape the Digital Bill of Rights. Your work will be reviewed for publication on the Frequency Festival website.

Our top team of Digital Scribes will need to attend the training session on the morning of 23rd Oct in MHT, and then attend the debate in the evening.

For the rest of the Festival, minimum commitment would be 2 days (the total time is 4 days – 2 weekends – from 10am till 5pm). The daily shift can be split into two slots: 10-1pm with 3 students and 2-5pm with other 3 students. You can decide whether to do the full day or whether to do 4 half days. The aim will be for you to work as small teams with the same people, supported throughout by Furtherfield and Threshold, to have some continuity and coherent coverage of the various conversations emerging from the events.

If interested in joining the Digital Scribes team, please contact, giving your name, contact details, course and level of study. Please also include a couple of lines on why you’d like to take part.

For students: great for CVs and for completion of the Lincoln Award!

How perfect is too perfect?

MARC the 3D printed robot
MARC the 3D printed robot
Research reveals robot flaws are key to interacting with humans.

Humans are less likely to form successful working relationships with interactive robots if they are programmed to be too perfect.

Interactive or ‘companion’ robots are increasingly used to support caregivers for elderly people and for children with autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder, yet by programming their behaviour to become more intelligent we could in fact be creating barriers to long-term human-robot relationships, the research suggests.

Conducted by robotics experts from the University of Lincoln, UK, the study found that a person is much more likely to warm to an interactive robot if it shows human-like ‘cognitive biases’ – deviations in judgement which form our individual characteristics and personalities, complete with errors and imperfections.The investigation was conducted by PhD researcher Mriganka Biswas and overseen by Dr John Murray from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science. Their findings were presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) conference in Hamburg in October 2015.

Mriganka said: “Our research explores how we can make a robot’s interactive behaviour more familiar to humans, by introducing imperfections such as judgemental mistakes, wrong assumptions, expressing tiredness or boredom, or getting overexcited. By developing these cognitive biases in the robots – and in turn making them as imperfect as humans – we have shown that flaws in their ‘characters’ help humans to understand, relate to and interact with the robots more easily.”

Currently most human-robot interaction is based on a set of well-ordered and structured rules and behaviours. However the Lincoln academics used a technique new to robotics research, which involved introducing the cognitive biases ‘misattribution of memory’ and ‘empathy gap’ – which traditionally play a significant role in human interactions and relationships – to two different robots.

The investigation involved Dr Murray’s robot ERWIN (Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network), which has the ability to express five basic emotions, and Keepon, a small yellow robot designed to study social development by interacting with children.

The researchers examined a number of interactions between the robots and human participants. During half of the interactions the robots were not affected by cognitive biases, but during the remainder, ERWIN made mistakes when remembering simple facts (using verbal abilities and expressions) and Keepon showed extreme happiness or sadness (using various movements and noises).

The participants were then asked to rate their experiences, and the results revealed that almost of all of those taking part enjoyed a more meaningful interaction with the robots when they made mistakes.

“The cognitive biases we introduced led to a more humanlike interaction process,” Mriganka explained. “We monitored how the participants responded to the robots and overwhelmingly found that they paid attention for longer and actually enjoyed the fact that a robot could make common mistakes, forget facts and express more extreme emotions, just as humans can.

“The human perception of robots is often affected by science fiction; however there is a very real conflict between this perception of superior and distant robots, and the aim of human-robot interaction researchers. A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognise users’ emotions and needs, and act accordingly. Despite this, robots used in previous research have lacked human characteristics so that users cannot relate – how can we interact with something that is more perfect than we are?

“As long as a robot can show imperfections which are similar to those of humans during their interactions, we are confident that long-term human-robot relations can be developed.”

The results of this study pave the way for the next phase of Mriganka’s PhD research, which will investigate whether using robots that show cognitive bias in a similar way, but which look more human-like, develops even more successful relationships. Mriganka’s current studies involve MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion), Dr Murray’s 3D-printed humanoid robot. The design of MARC is supplied by the open source project InMoov.

Previous research suggests that the appearance of humanoid robots helps users to understand their gestures more intuitively. Hand movements, body language and speech are easy for the human sensory system to interpret straight away as they have been practised since childhood. Mriganka will research whether this familiarity, coupled with cognitive biases and humanlike faults, will stimulate even more positive reactions from users.

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