All posts by Megan Smith

‘Friendly’ robots could allow for more realistic human-android relationships

Erwin smiling Erwin sad

Two ‘friendly’ robots, including a 3D-printed humanistic android, are helping scientists to understand how more realistic long-term relationships might be developed between humans and robots.

ERWIN (Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network) is the brainchild of Dr John Murray, from the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln, UK.

It is now being used as part of a PhD study to find out how some of the human-like thought biases in robot characteristics affect the human-robot relationship.

It is hoped the research will not only help scientists to understand and develop better, more realistic relationships between humans and ‘companion’ robots, but that it could also help to inform how relationships are formed  by children with autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder.

PhD student Mriganka Biswas said: “Cognitive biases make humans what they are, fashioning characteristics and personality, complete with errors and imperfections. Therefore, introducing cognitive biases in a robot’s characteristics makes the robot imperfect by nature, but also more human-like.

“Based on human interactions and relationships, we will introduce ‘characteristics’ and ‘personalities’ to the robot. If we can explain how human-to-human long-term relationships begin and develop, then it would be easier to plan the human-robot relationship.”

When two people interact for the first time, if the two different personalities attract each other, a relationship forms. But, in the case of conventional human-robot interaction, after gathering information about the robot, the robot’s lack of identifiable characteristics and personality prevents any relationship bond developing.

ERWIN has the ability to express five basic emotions while interacting with a human.

Mriganka said: “Robots are increasingly being used in different fields, such as rescuing people from debris, in medical surgeries, elderly support and as an aid for people who have autism.

“For the latter two especially, robots need to be friendly and relatively more sympathetic and emotive to its users. A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognize users’ emotions and needs, and to act accordingly. So, for each category the robot needs to form a ‘long-term’ relationship with its users, which is possible by continuous interactions and the robot having its own personality and characteristics.”

Scientists will be collating data from the robot’s interactions with humans, while also employing a 3D-printed humanoid robot and Keepon – a small yellow robot designed to study social development by interacting with children.

Its simple appearance and behaviour are intended to help children, particularly those with developmental disorders such as autism, to understand its attentive and emotive actions.

The ‘non-emotive’ Keepon will be used in the research project to study the different reactions people have to it compared to the emotive ERWIN. The aim is to discover which is most effective in engaging with participants, and whether those interactions are long or short-term.

Siren FM interview: How retinal imaging research could help prevent blindness

Marie Curie Researcher within the School of Computer Science, Georgios Leontidis, talks about his research into detecting diabetic retinopathy

As part of the Retinal Vascular Modelling, Measurement and Diagnosis (REVAMMAD) project led by the University of Lincoln, UK, Georgios is investigating new methods for the early screening and diagnosis of the disease by developing computer models which can detect small changes in the blood vessels of the eye.

Full interview attached.

Research presents new hope of early diagnosis of major cause of blindness

Diabetic eye revammadResearch is under way to develop new techniques for detecting diabetic retinopathy at early onset with the hope of improving prevention and treatment of this major cause of blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, occurring when high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the retina at the back of the eye.

The disease is the most common cause of sight loss in people of working age. It is estimated that in England every year 4,200 people are at risk of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy, with 1,280 new cases identified annually.

As part of the Retinal Vascular Modelling, Measurement and Diagnosis (REVAMMAD) project led by the University of Lincoln, UK, Marie Curie Researcher Georgios Leontidis is investigating new methods for the early screening and diagnosis of the disease by developing computer models which can detect small changes in the blood vessels of the eye.

Funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework (FP7) Marie Curie Initial Training Network programme, the University of Lincoln has been awarded 900,000 euros from the 3.8 million euro budget to lead the project and to develop retinal imaging and measurement training and research.

It aims to improve diagnosis, prognosis and prevention of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke and coronary heart disease and retinal diseases.

All people with diabetes are at some risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, regardless of whether their condition is controlled by diet, tablets or insulin.

Diabetic retinopathy progresses with time, but may not cause symptoms until it is advanced and close to affecting the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue, lining the inner surface of the eye. The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina in a similar way to the film in a camera.

Diabetes affects the structure of the vessel walls, making them stiffer. At an advanced point this causes them to break, creating haemorrhages and micro aneurysms, which are the first stages of diabetic retinopathy.
Georgios, an Electronics and Computer Engineer within the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, is investigating the effects of diabetes on the retina’s vessel walls and how this ultimately affects the flow of blood in the whole vasculature of the retina.

He said: “Here at the University of Lincoln, our efforts focus on analysing images of diabetic patients before the first stage of diabetic retinopathy. In that way we want to see what changes diabetes causes to the retina vessels and how these changes progress to retinopathy. We will then try to correlate the standard features we extract from these images with functional changes that occur, such as abnormality in blood pressure, blood flow volume and blood flow velocity, as well as to associate them with some risk factors like age, type of diabetes, duration of diabetes, gender and smoking.”

For more information on the REVAMMAD project, visit the project blog revammad.wordpress.com  or contact Georgios Leontidis on phone +44(0)1522 886873 or e-mail gleontidis@lincoln.ac.uk

World’s largest games development event

Students from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science will be taking part in the world’s largest game jam event.

The Global Game Jam (GGJ), which is dubbed a hackathon focused on game development, will see thousands of participants making games simultaneously across hundreds of locations all over the world.

The University’s computer labs will be home to up to 100 gamers for 48 hours from Friday, 24th January to Sunday, 26th January.

To kickstart the event jammers are shown a short video with advice from leading game developers, and a secret theme is announced.

All sites worldwide are then challenged to make games based on that same theme, with games to be completed by Sunday afternoon.

Dr Ben Kirman, senior lecturer in the School of Computer Science and member of Lincoln Games Research Group, said: “It’s all about stimulating collaboration and giving students the opportunity to see the sort of games development going on in other countries. Participants can also choose to donate any spare time they may have to help other groups with their projects.”

The weekend stirs a global creative buzz in games, while at the same time exploring the process of development, be it programming, iterative design, narrative exploration or artistic expression.

The GGJ encourages people from all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to this global spread of game development and creativity.

In January 2013, the GGJ had 309 locations in 63 countries create over 3,000 games in one weekend.

Students from other universities (with ID) and University of Lincoln alumni are also welcome to take part in the event.

Advance registration is required. For more information and to sign up go to http://games.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/01/global-game-jam-2014/