Minister given insight into the future of AI



Heriot-Watt’s world-leading expertise in AI and robotics were showcased during a special visit this week.  

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Science, travelled to the Edinburgh Campus to meet with members of the University’s ‘What’s Up Bot’ team who recently returned from Amazon’s prestigious AI competition, the Alexa Challenge. 

There is enormous potential for robotics and for artificial intelligence within Scotland.

Shirley-Anne Somerville

The nine-strong group competed against more than 100 entries from 22 countries and finished in third place with their highly sophisticated, artificial intelligence software named Alana, which can understand and respond to human conversation.

The Minister was given a guided tour of the Human Robot Interaction (HRI) where she learned about some of the latest advances in AI including a live demonstration of the Alana software. 

Afterwards she said: “There is enormous potential for robotics and for artificial intelligence within Scotland. Within Edinburgh, in particular, we have a number of universities collaborating well together to bring out the best in our research and innovation. The Scottish Government has identified both artificial intelligence and robotics as growth sectors for the future and that is why we are pleased to support our universities and our innovation centres and the fantastic work they already do.”

Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, said: “The University has a well-earned reputation as a world-leader in AI and robotics, in education and in the development of step-change technologies for societal and economic benefit.”