All posts by Elizabeth Allen

Lincoln Computer Science team beat the bookies


Racing predictions made by computer science experts at the University of Lincoln and featured on BBC Radio 4 successfully beat the bookies, picking out the programme’s first winner in 15 weeks.

Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering, Professor Nigel Allinson, and Principal Lecturer in the School of Computer Science, Dr John Murray, worked together to predict the winners of two horse races in Pontefract and Doncaster on Thursday 17th September.

Their prediction for the 2:10pm at Pontefract, a two year old horse called Spike, came in as the winner. The race at Doncaster was called off due to bad weather, but BBC producers were quick to congratulate Professor Allinson and Dr Murray on their success.

The academics’ method was based on a research paper by Professor Allinson on Machine Learning and Neural Networks. Dr Murray gathered race data and using the algorithm from Professor Allinson’s paper they ‘trained’ a neural network to ‘learn’ patterns from previous racing data, such as combinations of jockeys, trainers and horses as well as ‘going’, odds and value of race, to establish the best combinations.

Dr Murray entered the data from the relevant race card into their system the night before the race, and the system ‘predicted’ the winner of the race, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Dr Murray said: “I’m not a gambling man so I didn’t have a flutter, however a number of my colleagues in the university have stopped me today to thank me for the tip for which they did place a bet and won some money. We could produce more tips and try to improve the system, but the one problem we have is the availability of the data. It is ‘out there’ but it is very expensive.”

The feature was part of the BBC’s ‘Intelligent Machines’ series, which explored the ways in which advancements in technology and robotics have changed our world.

The team’s success was picked up this week by The Racing Post, which featured their winning methods as part of the paper’s news round-up this week.

‘Cancer seeing’ technology is one in a hundred innovations to change our world

PRaVDA2 sml

A groundbreaking piece of medical imaging technology that could revolutionise cancer treatment will be featured as part of a showcase of 100 engineering ideas that have changed our world.

A section of the PRaVDA instrument, developed at the University of Lincoln, UK, for enhancing the treatment of cancer using proton beam therapy, will be included in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) new show wall at its Savoy Place headquarters in London.

The IET is the largest professional engineering institution in Europe and its show wall will be a celebration of engineering ideas that have had the biggest impact on humanity. Other items on show include an internal combustion engine, as designed by Karl Benz, and a mechanical television system, which was masterminded by Logie Baird.

The international consortium of researchers behind the PRaVDA (Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications) project is led by the University of Lincoln’s Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering Nigel Allinson MBE.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, he and his multinational team are developing one of the most complex medical instruments ever imagined to improve the delivery of proton beam therapy in the treatment of cancer. The advances they have made in medical imaging technology could make this type of therapy a viable treatment for many more cancer sufferers.

The world-first technology developed by the team uses proton beams to localise treatment, causing less damage to healthy tissue.

Professor Allinson, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said: “It is an amazing honour for our work to be included on the IET’s show wall, and to be up there with some of the all-time greats of engineering innovation.”

The IET’s year-long show wall exhibition is part of a series of initiatives to celebrate the launch of the new Savoy Place venue in London, which officially opens in November 2015. The exhibition will include a layer of PRaVDA’s Proton Tracker Unit, which will feature alongside other pioneering innovations from across the globe.

The PRaVDA research consortium was also recognised by the institution in November 2014, when it won the Model-based Engineering category at the prestigious IET Innovation Awards, which recognise the best global innovations in engineering, science and technology.

Later this year, the PRaVDA team will continue its work by using coveted time on the South African National Cyclotron (a type of particle accelerator), near Cape Town, to try to produce a world-first clinical-quality Proton CT.

Student app takes speed messaging to the next level

Ravi app

Whether running late for a meeting or catching up with a friend, everyone has experienced the mad phone fumble to fire off a brief “I’m on my way” message as quickly as possible.

A new iPhone application created by a Computer Science student from the University of Lincoln, UK, offers a simple solution to this common problem, saving users vital time while sending messages.

‘Written’, created by Raviraj Minawala from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, is a handy widget which enables users to programme their five most frequently-used messages and three favourite contacts into the notification centre on their iPhones.

This means that users can swipe down from the top of their screen at any time, no matter which application they might be using, and send a message via SMS, iMessage of WhatsApp with just a couple of clicks.

Raviraj said: “In today’s busy society speed is of the essence, and as our lives become more intertwined with our smartphones it is increasingly important that they support our hectic schedules. Written allows users to send their own pre-defined messages, such as “where are you?” or “I’ll be there in 5 minutes”, to their favourite contacts within a couple of seconds, and does away with the need to stop what they’re doing, find one of the traditional messaging apps and type out their text. 

“With the emergence of features such as iMessage and WhatsApp, it is clear that there is a huge appetite for ever-more efficient messaging systems and Written takes this to the next level. It is very simple but very effective.”

Written is available to buy now and it has already proved highly popular with iPhone users, climbing to fourth in the Utilities category on the UK App Store. It has also received favourable reviews on a number of leading technology sites, including CultOfMac, iPhoneItalia and AVR Magazine.

This newest creation from Raviraj follows the success of his previous app, ‘Addial’, which places a dial-pad in the ‘Today’ view of the notification centre, making it possible to place a call from anywhere on your iPhone. Written does the same for users sending messages.

Raviraj has also developed iOS ‘tweaks’ that includes ‘Pluck’, which allows users to access the music library from the Lock-screen and Control Centre to instantly play or queue music. Another tweak called ‘Define’ allows access to the Dictionary, Wikipedia or Thesaurus from anywhere using the Control Centre – without leaving current content.

To find out more about the app, watch: , and to see more examples of Raviraj’s projects go to or follow him on Twitter, @rv1raj.

Welcoming BAXTER – the University of Lincoln’s newest robot


The University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science has welcomed a new robot capable of sensing and manipulation in workspaces shared with humans – the first of its kind at the University.

The arrival of the new BAXTER robot at Lincoln’s Centre for Autonomous Systems heralds the start of a research project, supported by the Research Investment Fund (RIF), exploring the potential for human-robot collaboration within the manufacturing industries.

Led by Dr Marc Hanheide, the collaborative Manipulation for Adaptive Human-Robot Collaboration in Manufacturing (McMan) project will involve researchers from across the Schools of Computer Science and Engineering. Together they will use the new BAXTER robot as a test-bed and demonstrator for industry-relevant research into how humans and robots can work together to improve productivity, safety and efficiency in manufacturing workplaces, as well as safety-critical robot control.

The BAXTER robot is produced by Rethink Robotics as a cost-effective solution for businesses handling low-volume, high-mix production jobs. BAXTER has already been integrated into some factory workforces across North America to support employees with tasks involving the handling of light-weight products, such as line-loading and packaging.

At Lincoln, researchers will explore how BAXTER can be programmed using smart sensor technologies to create a prototype for human-robot collaborations, which can then be used as the basis for future studies.

Dr Hanheide, Reader in the School of Computer Science, said: “Facilitating closer human-robot collaboration in manufacturing has been identified as one of the key “technology clusters” where progress is most essential for Europe’s future. Enabling robots and humans to work more closely together will help SMEs to become more cost effective, and help citizens to improve the productivity and quality of their working lives.

“The integration of sensing and cognition technologies into robots is fundamental to enabling this collaboration, so that they can predict human motions, participate in joint tasks, ensure safety, and adapt to the needs and abilities of different individuals. The McMan project will build our capabilities to do precisely this. While some of our other research projects focus on autonomous robotics and engineering applications in manufacturing, developing a robot capable of sensing human and responding to human action is a new and very exciting research area for the University.”

The McMan team, which also includes Professor Tom Duckett from the School of Computer Science and Dr Argyrios Zolotas and Dr Andrea Paoli from the School of Engineering, will aim to hold an industry workshop as part of the project, to disseminate findings and explore new opportunities for research and collaboration with local and national manufacturing businesses.