Committee members

Showcasing the Future of Human-Robot Collaboration: Spot the Quadruped Robot at the 2024 Spring Fling


At the 2024 Spring Fling event held in the ARC in March 2024, the School of Computing Science’s Dr Emma Li, and two of her PhD students, Abdul Alshememry (School of Computing Science) and Haralambos Dafas (School of Computing Science, Social AI CDT) showcased Spot, a quadruped robotic dog.

It is a clear trend that over the coming years quadruped robots, which offer great mobility, will be adopted across different sectors, including industry, logistics, hospitality, and healthcare/social care. People across these sectors will be expected to work closely alongside such quadruped robots. As such, Emma, Abdul and Haralambos are working on various research projects to establish how best humans can effectively interact and collaborate with quadruped robots.

The public were able to interact with Spot via simple dog-like activities such as playing fetch. This not only demonstrated Spot's current capabilities, but also proved that robots such as Spot can undertake tasks that can be more useful than mere entertainment, e.g., assisting individuals with impaired mobility in picking up objects from the ground.

REPHRAIN Festival of Privacy - Safeguarding children in social virtual reality applications

Children today are growing up in an increasingly connected world, influencing how they interact, communicate, and socialise. With the rise of Social Virtual Reality (VR), these immersive and embodied experiences have become more accessible to children. Cristina Fiani, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, working within the social AI CDT, focuses her research on safeguarding children in social VR environments.

While current safety features such as blocking, muting, personal space bubbles, and reporting exist, they often place the burden of action on children, who may not have the maturity to respond appropriately. Additionally, human moderators on some social VR platforms cannot address all incidents or be present around the clock.

To address this, Cristina proposes an alternative child-friendly solution called “Big Buddy,” an Automated Embodied Moderator (AEM). This Wizard-of-Oz prototype is an AI-Agent designed to safeguard children during disruptive situations in social VR. The concept stems from the idea that children might prefer having an older sibling or buddy assist them in harassment situations, especially since VR headsets obscure reality from parents and actual siblings. An automated and embodied version of this “buddy” can help children feel safer.

In a prior study, children aged 8-16 years old reported feeling significantly safer when Big Buddy was present and took action during disruptive events. For more details about Cristina's project and publications, please visit www.cristinafiani.com.

Ada Scotland Festival


The Ada Scotland Festival aims to champion gender diversity in Computing Science, and is comprised of a series of events aimed at women of all ages – but especially school-age girls – every October. While the Festival’s partners deliver events and activities across Scotland during the main festival, it’s always tricky to include everyone: in the Highlands, for example, the distances required to travel to an event can be prohibitive. With this in mind, our Festival Manager, Anna Doyle, hatched a plan to run a mini-festival in Inverness and to bus in school kids from across the Highlands for a day of hands-on computing activities. And so, Anna and Matt travelled up to Inverness in mid-February to put this plan into action.

The kids travelled from as far afield as Ardnamurchan High School, Dornoch Academy, and Grantown Grammar, and were treated to lunch (plus an endless supply of biscuits) to see them through the day’s activities. These activities – featuring Spheros, micro:bits, and video game nanobots – were delivered by partners including the Scottish AI Alliance, Barclays, UHI, Skills Development Scotland, and the SQA. The feedback from teachers and pupils alike was brilliant, and we aim to run a similar event in the Highlands next year, as well as expanding to establish a mini-festival in the Borders in 2024.

SmartSTEMS collaboration – widening access to STEM education


SmartSTEMS is a Scottish charity that aims to ensure young people – regardless of gender, background, ethnicity, or religion – have equal and fair access to STEM education and career opportunities. Working in collaboration with education and industry, SmartSTEMS facilitate the delivery of ‘hub events’, designed to engage young people aged 10-14 in STEM activities. On 14 December, the School of Computing Science’s Anna Doyle and Dr Matthew Barr hosted the University’s first SmartSTEMS hub event, building on our previous Ada Scotland Festival collaborations. The hub event involved colleagues from Engineering, Maths & Statistics, and Computing Science delivering hands-on workshops to 130 school children across a number of campus venues, including the ARC. Workshops were also delivered by industry partners including JP Morgan, Turnkey, and Howden.

In addition to the workshops, there were employer stalls, prizes, and presentations, including a talk from Megan Gallagher, who recently graduated from our Graduate Apprenticeship in Software Engineering and continues to work as a software engineer at Leidos. Another former Graduate Apprentice, Andrew Blair – now pursuing a PhD in the School of Computing Science – delivered a much talked about session with Pepper the robot.

Anna and Matt are now talking to SmartSTEMS about another, larger event, aimed at slightly a older age group. Please do get in touch (Anna.Doyle@glasgow.ac.uk or Matthew.Barr@glasgow.ac.uk) if you’d be interested in taking part!

Blair Drummond Zoo and Safari Park Collaboration & Educational Impact

 a chimpanzee heating devicea tangible touch-based device for giraffes that plays audio to giraffes when licked/head-butted


Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas research and develop new animal-computer systems. She has been working with Blair Drummond Zoo and Safari park since 2021. She has published papers from this collaboration, one at ISS'23 on giraffes, which won an honourable mention award. So far, she has been developing technologies viewable by the public and designed to increase visitor education and for animals to investigate their behaviours with computer devices and featuring on their website  https://www.blairdrummond.com/conservation/research/ 

When she has technologies in the zoo, the zoo sometimes puts up signs about the technologies if they are viewable by the public. She received a fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2023 to work with the zoo to develop these to help towards Scottish educational offerings and she has given talks/written for the British Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the regulating body on technologies developed at zoos, as part of this work on how to build zoo tech. She has also participated in the Glasgow Science Festival looking at animal tech for children. Further, her research with them has been featured on STV news, The Scotsman, etc. Finally, PhD, interns and Level 4/5 students have been involved in this collaboration and won best thesis awards for their research at the zoo.

Above are some photos to give an idea of the technologies her group develops; a tangible touch-based device for giraffes that plays audio to giraffes when licked/head-butted and a chimpanzee heating device so they can warm up and stay outside longer triggered by standing on a projected square of light (they use it sometimes to warm their mouths hence the photo!).