Ground-breaking AI

Oliver Lemon

Our artificial intelligence research is pioneering conversational robots that can learn human language and interact socially, for applications across global industry.

Professor Oliver Lemon, Director of the Interaction Lab and Chief AI Officer of Alana AI

Professor Oliver Lemon's team is developing technology to enable robots and devices to interact naturally with humans, using speech, gesture, motion, and facial expressions. Their leading artificial intelligence (AI) research enables rapid and effective conversational natural language communication with future systems that can cooperate intelligently with people.

The Interaction Lab is one of the few places in the world that has pioneered the use of machine learning methods to develop conversational language interfaces. This means that machines can now learn how to have dialogues with people and better understand and generate natural human language. Ultimately, this research will develop new interfaces and robots which are easier, quicker, and more enjoyable to use.

As robots and the 'internet of things' become more integrated into our everyday lives, we will need increasingly natural interaction systems, to avoid information overload and enjoy more effective and engaging collaboration with new technologies.

Real-world impact

The Interaction Lab is breaking new ground in the development of conversational robots that can learn how to interact socially with humans. A successful European Commission Horizon 2020 funding call in 2015 resulted in MuMMER, Heriot-Watt's resident robot, and a new Horizon 2020 project starting in 2020 called SPRING is developing conversational robots for health applications. MuMMER and SPRING exhibit behaviour that is socially appropriate, combining speech-based interaction with non-verbal communication and human-aware navigation.

The team has worked with companies including Softbank, Orange Labs, and BMW to solve new problems in conversational interaction with machines - and, for two years running, a PhD team from the Lab has made it to the finals of the  $1.5 Million Amazon Alexa Prize with its conversational AI system `Alana’.

In 2020 Prof Lemon founded the spin-out company Alana AI to focus on commercial applications of Natural Language Processing, machine learning, and conversational AI.

Read more about our Alexa success 
Keep up with developments @oliverlemon

Read more about all the research at the National Robotarium.

Key information

Oliver Lemon