Sandy Spence and Comp Sci department lift UK photography prize two years running

This year's winning entry was using the same research as last year but in an entirely new dynamic. Credit: Sandy Spence.

This year’s winning entry was using the same research as last year but in an entirely new dynamic.
Credit: Sandy Spence.

AN IMAGE of a humanoid robot learning about how to play from a young child as part of robotics research at Aberystwyth University has won a top UK science photography award.

‘iCub and the tutor’ by Sandy Spence from the Department of Computer Science is the winner of the ‘People’ prize in this year’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Science Photography Competition, and have made it a double after taking the same crown last year, again with iCub.

The 2015 EPSRC 'People' category winner, 'The Greatest Discovery. Cerdit: Sandy Spence

The 2015 EPSRC ‘People’ category winner, ‘The Greatest Discovery.
Cerdit: Sandy Spence

In 2015 ‘The Greatest Discovery’ which showed the iCub humanoid robot ‘listening’ to the unborn child of mother to be Ayesha Jones, won the ‘People’ prize. A year on, and Ayesha’s daughter Caiya features in ‘iCub and the tutor’, sitting at a table and playing with the iCub robot.

Both images were inspired by the work of the Intelligent Robotics Group at Aberystwyth University who are applying how young children learn about the world around them to the development of humanoid robots.

In 2015 the group was awarded £560,000 by the EPSRC for a three year research project that sees the group working with developmental psychologists to help robots learn more about the physics of objects and how to use objects as tools.

Patricia Shaw, a lecturer in Computer Science and a member of the Intelligent Robotics Group, explains:

“During infancy, children learn from their experiences of the world around them. Through playing with objects they build up an understanding of what objects are and how to use them, along with concepts about the basic physics of the world such as object permanence.

“In this research, we are modelling how young infants learn and applying it to a humanoid robot. The aim is to develop a mechanism for robots to learn about the basic physics of the world through understanding objects. In ‘iCub and the tutor’, the iCub robot is learning about how to play from the baby.”

“We are delighted to have won this award for the second year running. It is recognition of the excellent work the team here at Aberystwyth University is doing, and offers us a great opportunity to share with everyone what we are working to achieve.”

You can see the iCub ‘Thank You’ video on their Youtube channel here.