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09 November 2020

International award for PhD thesis on assistive robots

Award for PhD thesis

gerard canal robot

Dr Gerard Canal, post doctoral research associate in the Department of Informatics, has been awarded the Marc Esteva Vivanco Award from the Catalan Association for Artificial Intelligence (ACIA), for his PhD thesis ("Adapting robot behavior to user preferences in assistive scenarios").

Gerard’s research looked at the role that robots play in helping people with daily tasks, such as eating and getting dressed, and how personalisation can improve the task performance and interaction. As populations age the use of robot assistants is becoming more commonplace. Since no two people are the same understanding how robots can adapt their behaviour will improve the quality of life of those who need their help.

Discussing the award Gerard commented:

I am delighted to receive this award for my work in an area that I believe can improve the quality of life for many people. The most useful robot assistants should be able to adapt what they are doing to suit the person they are supporting. By starting with the definition of user preferences, we have been able to develop new tools and algorithms that will improve the way robots behave and interact with dependent users while assisting them”.

Gerard is part of the group at King’s working on the Trust in Human-Machine Partnerships project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council, to advance the state-of-the-art in trustworthy human-AI decision-support systems. The project addresses the technical challenges involved in creating explainable AI (XAI) systems so that people using the system can understand the rationale behind and trust suggestions made by the AI.

Commenting on Gerard’s achievement, Dr Andrew Coles, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, said:

This is excellent news, and very well deserved -- Gerard's PhD made a strong contribution to the area of assistive robotics. He is an invaluable member of the team working on the EPSRC-funded 'Trust in Human-Machine Partnership' (THuMP) project here at King's, working on explainable AI: by developing assistive robots that can explain their behaviour to humans, we can address some major societal challenges."

In this story

Gerard Canal

Lecturer in Autonomous Systems

Andrew Coles

Reader in Artificial Intelligence