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Heriot-Watt University’s Festival of Research – celebrating research excellence; enhancing research culture; building research capacity.

Prof Helen Hastie – Robots in Dangerous Places

The EPSRC ORCA Hub is a large, multi-million pound project that Heriot-Watt is leading with 4 other UK universities. The key research objective is to develop robotic technologies that enable reliable, robust and certifiable asset inspection in offshore environments. In order for such autonomous, decision-making systems to be adopted commercially, the human operators involved must understand, at all times, what the systems are doing and why. Plus they must trust their robotic systems to do the job safely and efficiently. Prof. Helen Hastie will discuss issues around human-robotic teaming and how to enable such trusting relationships to form through intelligent multimodal interfaces.

Prof Lynne Baillie - How can we design Robots for Health and Wellbeing

Research in robotics has come a long way since the early days when the term “robot” typically referred to machines on factory assembly lines. The current definition (Oxford English Dictionary) describes a robot as “a machine …capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically”. While today’s robots may or may not resemble humans, the social element of our interactions with these machines is gaining importance. For example, there is growing interest within the field of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) in bringing innovations to the challenging ‘assistive health’ domain (e.g. for elderly or disabled people). Our research explores what design and adaptations need to be considered to maximise the effectiveness of assistive robots for human health and wellbeing.

Dr Ioannis Konstas - Alana: advancements in conversational Artificial Intelligence

‘Alana’ is a highly sophisticated, artificial intelligence (AI) software created at Heriot-Watt University and capable of understanding and responding to human conversation in a socially intelligent manner. As an open-domain, spoken dialogue system, it aims at maintaining a fun, engaging and informative discussion with its human users. Alana consists of an ensemble of bots, combining rule-based and machine learning systems, and works by leveraging information from heterogeneous sources (e.g., News, Wikipedia, Reddit) and a large knowledge base (WikiData). Alana was awarded 3rd place in a global competition – the Amazon Alexa Prize Challenge - for both 2017 and 2018, with the awards announced at a ceremony held in Las Vegas, USA.

'Pioneering Research' Strand

From discovery to application, our pioneering research delivers impact, helping to transform society, stimulate economic growth, and change lives. Find out more about the award-winning, pioneering research being undertaken at Heriot-Watt University and why it is attracting academic and innovation interest worldwide.

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Research Futures Academy