What we do

The Interaction Lab is located in the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (MACS) at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Check out our new Masters course in AI and Conversational Agents (MSc in AI with Speech and Multimodal Interaction). Many of us also collaborate in the Human-Robot Interaction group

We are organising the 2017 Year of Robotics at Heriot-Watt!

November 2016: Amazon have selected our team to enter the Alexa Challenge!

Our research addresses some of the central problems in computer science and AI, by developing intelligent interactive systems which can collaborate effectively and adaptively with humans, and combining a variety of interaction modalities, such as speech, graphics, gesture, vision, and Natural Language.  Our methods combine statistical and symbolic information processing, and we are developing data-driven machine learning approaches to build robust agents which can adapt autonomously in uncertain and dynamic interactions. These techniques are applied in a variety of domains, such as conversational interfaces, mobile search, wearable technology, technology enhanced learning, healthcare informatics, and human-robot interaction. We evaluate the performance of our models and algorithms both in simulation and in trials with real users.

We recently organised INLG 2016 in Edinburgh. We also recently organised the 1st Workshop on Data-to-text Generation and the workshop on Spatial Reasoning and Interaction for Real-World Robotics at IROS 2015.

We have recently received funding to create an Intelligent Room for Interaction Science (IRIS)

Lab members are running the Machine Learning Reading Group

Some of our research projects:
  • machine learning for socially intelligent Human-Robot Interaction (MuMMER, EC Horizon 2020) 
  • learning domain-general / wide-coverage spoken dialogue systems: BABBLE (EPSRC)
  • Natural Language GenerationGUI project (Generation for Uncertain Information, EPSRC); DILiGENt (Domain-Independent Language Generation, EPSRC), and REGIME (Dstl) for REport GeneratIon from Meta-data for Autonomous Systems
  • a fully statistical approach for adaptive and incremental Spoken Dialogue Systems (CLASSiC and PARLANCE projects, EC FP7)
    • Reinforcement Learning, User Simulations, Information Presentation, Natural Language Generation, POMDPs, incremental dialogue processing.
  • socially intelligent human-robot interaction: the JAMES project (EC, FP7): video
  • adaptive spoken interaction for an intelligent city guide: the SpaceBook project (EC, FP7), SpeechCity Impact Acceleration Grant (EPSRC)
  • Human-Robot Interaction for teaching and learning: the EMOTE project (EC, FP7)
  • an intelligent multimodal interface for communication skills learning in children (ECHOES project, ESRC/EPSRC TEL)
    • combining multitouch,  vision, planning, and animation for intelligent interactions with virtual characters.
  • integrating symbolic and statistical methods for dialogue processing:
    •  large-scale POMDPs (EPSRC project)representing uncertainty and planning over complex goals in large state spaces using Automatic Belief Compression.
    • STAC project (ERC) on Strategic Conversation
  • adaptive interfaces for patient monitoring and treatment (Help4Mood, EC FP7)
    • autonomously adapting to different types of user during interaction.
We are interested in joining further  international and national research collaborations in the above areas.

Please see our webpages on PhD opportunities and Job openings.

We are part of the Intelligent Systems Lab, and SICSA (the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance). We are currently funded by grants from the EPSRC and the European Commission (Horizon 2020).


Oliver Lemon is a keynote speaker at SIGDIAL 2017

Seminar from Yiannis Konstas (Uni. Washington) "Building Adaptable and Scalable Natural Language Generation Systems
using Deep Learning" (29/3/17)

Our team was chosen by Amazon to enter the Alexa challenge!

Job opening with closing date 27 June 2016. 

Pepper robot has arrived! (June 2016)

Papers accepted (2016): AAMAS, HRI, ACL, SemDial, LREC, FUZZ-IEE, IWSDS, SemEval, CSL, ECAI, SIGDIAL, RO-MAN, INLG.

Eshrag Refaee and Verena Rieser are winners of SemEval'16 challenge (sub-task 7)

New ESPRC project (2015) funded on domain-general spoken dialogue systems: BABBLE

January 2015: FurHat has arrived!

SpeechCity wins the Culture and Sports Challenge in the EdinburghApps competition

2 new EPSRC projects on NLG funded 

SpeechCity demo app released for SEMDIAL 2014

ECHOES project rated "outstanding" by ESRC (June 2014)

The Interaction lab is jointly organising a workshop on Multimodal HRI at ICMI 2014

James Watt studentships available.

BBC article on Parlance project, "How to turn Siri into Samantha", Feb2014

JAMES project: on german TV, 2014

SemDial'14 is hosted by iLab.

MSc in AI with Speech and Multimodal Interaction starting Sept 2014.

Welcome to Katrin Lohan, our new lab member (21/10/13)

2 papers accepted for ICMI 2013

5 papers accepted for SIGDIAL 2013

Jason Williams from Microsoft Research visited us on 14/6/13

Oliver Lemon joins Advisory Board for Dialog State Tracking Challenge II (2013 -)

ENLG 2013 paper accepted.

Oliver Lemon gave an invited talk at Nuance Communications Inc, Sunnyvale Research Lab on 29/5/13

Verena Rieser is area chair for discourse & dialogue for EACL'14.

Verena Rieser gave an invited talk at ICSI Berkeley on 14/07/13. Watch on YouTube.

Mary Ellen Foster's paper with Ron Petrick from Edinburgh Uni has been named Novel Applications Track Best Paper for ICAPS'13.

2 papers accepted for ACL 2013

25/3/13 Verena Rieser elected to the Scientific Advisory Committee of SIGDIAL

Jan 2013: Verena Rieser  elected to the board of SIGGEN

6/11/12: SpaceBook and JAMES at the SICSA DemoFest

1/11/12 New book:

1/10/12: Welcome to our new Research Fellow Heriberto Cuayáhuitl 

1/10/12: Welcome to our new Phd students Kevin O'Connor and Ioannis Efstathiou !

Hiring:  new RA post in NLP and dialogue  (june 2012)

ECHOES project: video
Human-Robot Interaction: VIDEO

May 2012: call of the wired: Conversational Interface work at HWU and Cambridge

Faculty positions in Computer Science: join us!

New project EC FP7 Parlance started November 1st. 
See here for details

New forum for recruiting subjects at Heriot-Watt. Website here

3/11/11 Invited talk introducing Machine Learning to medics and psychologists at the Western General Hospital. Slides Available here.

1/11/11 Verena Rieser joined as a new faculty member.

1/11/11 ECHOES project at ESRC Festival of Social Science

Trialling a new spoken dialogue system for Edinburgh restaurants. ABC SDS prize draw.

Dialogue data released from CLASSiC project in our archive.

Heriot-Watt has been named as Scottish University of the Year 2011/12 by the Sunday Times.

2 papers accepted for SIGDIAL 2011

New projects James and Spacebook kick off this month (March 2011).

Outreach activity (4/3/2011): Tommy the Robot visits local school.

New project Help4Mood kicks off (January 2010).

ECHOES project features in "Britain in 2010" magazine (p. 94)

Interaction Lab joins the Vision and Language Network (Feb 2010)

InteractionLab joins EuCOG II:  European network for researchers in artificial cognitive systems, interaction, and robotics (16/10/2009)

The new Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt up and running (posted 9/10/09).