Peter Wallis, Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Modelling

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Research:Artificial Intelligence - Communication between machines and humans.

I come from a background in natural language processing and machine understanding but in 2001 we did some experiments with an ECA(1) that quantified the extent to which people are interested in information versus their concern for a system to be polite(2). With notable exceptions (e.g. Dix and Dautenhan) HCI research uses a "computer as tool" metaphor - it is up to the user to understand what the tool does, and weld it correctly(X). Language does not work that way. Indeed that is not how people communicate with their dogs(3). I am now firmly in the computers as social actors camp and think that us engineers need to figure out how to work with the human sciences. Sabine Payr and I wrote a successful FP7 proposal that enabled us to put "robot rabbits" in older people's homes and record 300 or so interactions(4). What did we learn? Well, in general we found we don't know what to do with the data(5). Sabine used Grounded Theory which was impressive, and I have been trying to fund a project to adapt Peter Abell's model of business case studies to human-robot interaction data. In the mean time, I am creating an IVR system that implements Michael Tomasello's 2008 position that human communication is intentional and cooperative(6) and at home, continuing the dog theme, I am trying to make our Roomba come when it's called(7).

Phone: (international) +44 161 247 6479
Fax: (international) +44 161 247 6350
Mobile: 0791 005 9137
Email: pwallis at