CDT Research Showcase Day 2 – 31 March 2022

This blog post is written by CDT Student Matt Clifford

The second day of the research showcase focused on the future of interactive AI. This, of course, is a challenging task to predict, so the day was spent highlighting three key areas: AI in green/sustainable technologies, AI in education and AI in creativity.

Addressing each of the three areas, we were given introductory talks from industry/academia.

AI in green/sustainable technologies, Dr. Henk Muller, XMOS

Henk is CTO of Bristol based micro chip designers XMOS. XMOS’s vision is to provide low power solutions that enable AI to be deployed onto edge systems rather than being cloud based.

Edge devices benefit from lower latency and cost as well as facilitating a more private system since all computation is executed locally. However, edge devices have limited power and memory capabilities. This restricts the complexity of models that can be used. Models have to be either reduced in size or precision to conform to the compute requirements. For me, I see this as a positive for model design and implementation. Many machine learning engineers quote Occam’s razor as a philosophical pillar to design. But in practice it is far too tempting to throw power-hungry supercomputer resources at problems where perhaps they aren’t needed.

It’s refreshing to see the type of constraints that XMOS’s chips present us with opening the doors for green and sustainable AI research and innovation in a way that many other hardware manufacturers don’t encourage.

AI in Education, Dr. Niall Twomey, Kidsloop

Niall Twomey, AI in Education talk
Niall Twomey, KidsLoop, giving the AI in Education talk

AI for/in/with education helps teachers by providing the potential for personalised assistants in a classroom environment. They would give aid to students when the teacher’s focus and attention is elsewhere.

The most recent work from kidsloop addresses the needs of neurodivergent students, concentrating on making learning more appropriate to innate ability rather than neurotypical standards. There is potential for the AI in education to reduce biases towards neurotypical students in the education system, with a more dynamic method of teaching that scales well to larger classroom sizes. I think that these prospects are crucial in the battle to reduce stigma and overcome challenges associated with neurodivergent students.

You can find the details of the methods used in their paper: Equitable Ability Estimation in Neurodivergent Student Populations with Zero-Inflated Learner Models, Niall Twomey et al., 2022.

It’s worth mentioning that kidsloop will be looking for a research intern soon. So, if you are interested in this exciting area of AI then keep your eyes peeled for the announcements.

AI in Creativity, Prof. Atau Tanaka, University of Bristol

Atau Tanaka, AI and Creativity talk, with Peter Flach leading the Q&A session
Atau Tanaka giving the AI and Creativity talk, with Peter Flach leading the Q&A session

The third and final topic of the day was Ai in a creative environment, specifically for music. Atau showcased an instrument he designed which uses electrical signals produced by the body’s muscles to capture a person’s gesture as the input. He assigns each gesture input to a corresponding sound. From here a regression model is fitted, enabling the interpolation between each gesture. This allows novel sounds to be synthesised with new gestures. The sounds themselves are experimental, dissonant, and distant from the original input sounds, yet Atau seems to have control and intent over the whole process.

The interactive ML training process Atau uses glimpses at the tangibility of ML that we rarely get to experiment with. I would love to see an active learning style component to the learning algorithm that would solidify the human and machine interaction further.

Creativity and technology are intertwined at their core and  I am always excited to see how emerging technologies can influence creativity and how creatives find ways to redefine creativity with technology.

Breakout Groups and Plenary Discussion

Discussion groups
Discussion groups during the Research Showcase

After lunch we split into three groups to share thoughts on our favourite topic area. It was great to share opinions and motivations amongst one another. The overall drive for discussion was to flesh out a rough idea that could be taken forward as a research project with motivations, goals, deliverables etc. A great exercise for us first years to undertake before we enter the research phase of the CDT!

Closing Thoughts

I look forward to having more of these workshop sessions in the future as the restrictions of the covid pandemic ease. I personally find them highly inspirational, and I believe that the upcoming fourth IAI CDT cohort will be able to benefit significantly from having more in person events like these workshops. I think that they will be especially beneficial for exploring, formulating and collaborating on summer project ideas, which is arguably one of the most pivotal aspects of the CDT.

CDT Research Showcase Day 1 – 30 March 2022

Blog post written by CDT Student Oli Deane.

This year’s IAI CDT Research Showcase represented the first real opportunity to bring the entire CDT together in the real world, permitting in-person talks and face-to-face meetings with industry partners.

Student Presentations

Pecha Kucha presentation given by Grant Stevens
Grant Stevens giving his Pecha Kucha talk

The day began with a series of quickfire talks from current CDT students. Presentations had a different feel this year as they followed a Pecha Kucha style; speakers had ~6 minutes to present their research with individual slides automatically progressing after 20 seconds. As a result, listeners received a whistle-stop tour of each project without delving into the nitty gritty details of research methodologies.

Indeed, this quickfire approach highlighted the sheer diversity of projects carried out in the CDT. The presented projects had a bit of everything; from a data set for analyzing great ape behaviors, to classification models that determine dementia progression from time-series data.

It was fascinating to see how students incorporated interactivity into project designs. Grant Stevens, for example, uses active learning and outlier detection methods to classify astronomical phenomena. Tashi Namgyal has developed MIDI-DRAW, an interactive musical platform that permits the curation of short musical samples with user-provided hand-drawn lines and pictures. Meanwhile, Vanessa Hanschke is collaborating with LV to explore how better ethical practices can be incorporated into the data science workflow; for example, her current work explores an ethical ‘Fire-drill’ – a framework of emergency responses to be deployed in response to the identification of problematic features in existing data-sets/procedures. This is, however, just the tip of the research iceberg and I encourage readers to check out all ongoing projects on the IAI CDT website.

Industry Partners

Gustavo Medina Vazquez's presentation, EDF Energy, with Q&A session being led by Peter Flach
Gustavo Medina Vazquez’s EDF Energy presentation with the Q&A session being led by CDT Director Peter Flach

Next, representatives from three of our industry partners presented overviews of their work and their general involvement with the CDT.

First up was Dylan Rees, a Senior Data Engineer at LV. With a data science team stationed in MVB at the University of Bristol, LV are heavily involved with the university’s research. As well as working with Vanessa to develop ethical practices in data science, they run a cross-CDT datathon in which students battle to produce optimal models for predicting fair insurance quotes. Rees emphasized that LV want responsible AI to be at the core of what they do, highlighting how insurance is a key example of how developments in transparent, and interactive, AI are crucial for the successful deployment of AI technologies. Rees closed his talk with a call to action: the LV team are open to, and eager for, any collaboration with UoB students – whether it be to assist with data projects or act as “guinea pigs” for advancing research on responsible AI in industry.

Gustavo Vasquez from EDF Energy then discussed their work in the field and outlined some examples of past collaborations with the CDT. They are exploring how interactive AI methods can assist in the development and maintenance of green practices – for example, one ongoing project uses computer vision to identify faults in wind turbines. EDF previously collaborated with members of the CDT 2019 cohort as they worked on an interactive search-based mini project.

Finally, Dr. Claire Taylor, a representative from QINETIQ, highlighted how interactive approaches are a major focus of much of their research. QINETIC develop AI-driven technologies in a diverse range of sectors: from defense to law enforcement,  aviation to financial services. Dr. Taylor discussed the changing trends in AI, outlining how previously fashionable methods that have lost focus in recent years are making a come-back courtesy of the AI world’s recognition that we need more interpretable, and less compute-intensive, solutions. QINETIQ also sponsor Kevin Flannagan’s (CDT 2020 cohort) PhD project in which he explores the intersection between language and vision, creating models which ground words and sentences within corresponding videos.

Academic Partners and Poster Session

Research Showcase poster session
Research Showcase poster session

To close out the day’s presentations, our academic partners discussed their relevant research. Dr. Oliver Ray first spoke of his work in Inductive Logic Programming before Dr. Paul Marshall gave a perspective from the world of human computer interaction, outlining a collaborative cross-discipline project that developed user-focused technologies for the healthcare sector.

Finally, a poster session rounded off proceedings; a studious buzz filled the conference hall as partners, students and lecturers alike discussed ongoing projects, questioning existing methods and brainstorming potential future directions.

In all, this was a fantastic day of talks, demonstrations, and general AI chat. It was an exciting opportunity to discuss real research with industry partners and I’m sure it has produced fruitful collaborations.

I would like to end this post with a special thank you to Peter Relph and Nikki Horrobin who will be leaving the CDT for bigger and better things. We thank them for their relentless and frankly spectacular efforts in organizing CDT events and responding to students’ concerns and questions. You will both be sorely missed, and we all wish you the very best of luck with your future endeavors!