Image of robot ‘listening’ to an unborn child wins photography award

17 March 2015

“The Greatest Discovery”
“The Greatest Discovery”

An image of a robot ‘listening’ to an unborn child has won the ‘People’ category in this year’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Science Photography Competition.

“The Greatest Discovery” was taken by Sandy Spence at the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University and features mother to be Ayesha Jones and the Department’s iCub humanoid robot.

The research of the Intelligent Robotics group at the Department of Computer Science is inspired by the development of infants during the very early stages of life.

Patricia Shaw, a lecturer in Computer Science and a member of the Intelligent Robotics Group, said: “We work with psychologists and neuroscientists to understand how children develop and learn, even from before birth.

“In the work we have done so far, we have developed a model that enables the iCub robot to learn how to coordinate what it is sensing to the motor movements it can make.

“In the photograph, we wanted to tell a story to the general public about the research we are doing. The robot is listening to and learning from the as yet unborn child. As that baby grows and develops, so will the robot. As such, the image very much reflects the research we have been doing.

“Winning this competition enables us to spread the word about our research, and get people interested in the potential developments that could arise from it. The target is that the research could lead to robots that are much more capable of adapting to unknown situations because they have the capacity to learn and discover new skills.”

This month the Intelligent Robotics Group at Aberystwyth University embarks on a new 3 year project, funded by the EPSRC.

Working with developmental psychologists, the group will build on our previous research to help the robot learn more about the physics of objects and how to use objects as tools.

There were five categories in this year’s EPSRC Science Photography Competition - Discovery, Weird and Wonderful, Equipment, Innovation, and People.

The overall winner was ‘March of the Triffids’ by Paul May from the University of Bristol.

Congratulating the winners and entrants, Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: "The quality of the entries is testament to the talents, both scientific and artistic, of the people EPSRC supports."

"This competition and these truly inspirational images are a great way for us to engage with academics, connect the general public with research they fund, and inspire everyone to take an interest in science and engineering."

The competition received over 150 entries which were drawn from researchers in receipt of EPSRC funding.

The judges were: Martin Keene, Group Picture Editor, Press Association; Lesley Thompson, EPSRC’s Director of Science and Engineering and Graihagh Jackson producer for BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Naked Scientists programme.

EPSRC is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

Further information about the EPSRC Science Photography Competition is available online.

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Contacts

Patricia Shaw
Intelligent Robotics Group
Department of Computer Science
Aberystwyth University
01970 622432 / phs@aber.ac.uk

Arthur Dafis
Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs
Aberystwyth University
01970 621763 / 07841 979 452 / aid@aber.ac.uk