Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) visiting Robotarium

12th of October

Robotarium at Heriot-Watt University had been visited by the BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). Visitors left very pleased, informed and with a very good impression of the HWU.




Robotics Lab workshop at SICSA PhD Conference

29th of June

Robotics Lab representatives Nick Taylor and Boris Mocialov led workshop on Ethical, Social, and Professional Concerns in the Information Age during the SICSA PhD Conference at the University of Dundee. Participants explored potential ethical issues in such topics as AI filtering of social media postings, contemporary socialisation, personal filter bubbles, and public safety vs individual privacy.




Robotics and Interaction Lab Open Day

21st of June

Both Robotics and Interaction lab held a joint Open Day, where research students presented their work to a wide audience from across the Scotland. Keynote speakers did an amazing job motivating the attendees.


RoboticsLab research was presented to Honda research instituted in Offenbach

30th of May, 2017

Assistant Prof. Dr. Katrin Lohan presented the work of the RoboticsLab to Honda research instituted in Offenbach today 30.05.2017. She spoke about the work in HRI carried out at Heriot-Watt.


European Robotics Forum 2017

20th of May, 2017

Edinburgh welcomed the European Robotics Forum to the city in March this year with 800+ delegates from around the world. This year's theme “Living and Working with Robots”. More information about the forum by Edinburgh Ambassador Dr Patricia A. Vargas from Heriot-Watt University can be found at

Year of Robotics at HWU

4th of March, 2017

HWU celebrates the Year of Robotics (YoR) in 2017. The year will be full of events and public discussions. Come and join us on some of the occasions. The list of activities can be found at

Hope to see all of you, robotics enthusiasts!

Teachable Robots talk at iit

4th of March, 2017

Katrin Lohan gave a talk on "Teachable Robots" at iit. The talk consisted of a discussion on features of the environment that are needed for smooth interaction between robots and humans with elements of teaching. The methods presented consisted of deep learning for action description and object recognition. The talk focused on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) user groups that could be interacting with robots in a household in the near future. 


Lego and Robots Networking Event

1st Feb 2017

Katrin Lohan, the deputy director of the Robotics Lab at HWU, together with Fiona McNeill, the Assistant Professor in Computer Science at HWU and the organiser of the First Lego League (FLL) Scotland, in collaboration with Lambda Jam, explored the topic of Human-Robot Collaborations together with the attendants of the Lego and Robots event ( The talks included topics, such as social, developmental robotics, and data interpretation as robot gathers information from surrounding it environment.

Heriot-Watt University Robotics Lab at IEEE SSCI 2016

16th of December

Robotics Lab members presented their research at symposia on computational intelligence in Athens, Greece. 


Dr. Patricia Vargas is one of the 25 Women in Robotics You Need To Know About

16th of October

Dr. Patricia Vargas, our director of the Robotics Lab, is one of the women in Robotics You Need to Know About, as identified by the Robohub ( 

More info:

Chance to organise a Cyber-Physical Systems activity/event

29th September, 2016

Now there is now a chance to organise an activity or event in the area of Cyber-Physical Systems that are the key concept in IoT (Internet of Things), where Cyber-Physical Systems allow close interaction between physical systems and software algorithms. Examples of Cyber-Physical systems applications include but not restrict to robotics, avionics, and medicine. 

The Research Theme leaders for Cyber-Physical Systems are Dr Katrin Solveig Lohan ( and Dr Subramanian Ramamoorthy (

You can complete a proposal and email to if you wish to organise a theme activity or event in this area.

Heriot-Watt Research in HRI presented on IEEE ICDL-EPIROB

September 29th, 2016

Heriot-Watt Robotics Lab presented research in HRI. The title is "Gaze Contingent Joint Attention with an Avatar in Children with and without ASD". 


Heriot-Watt's Morphing Machine at the National Museum of Scotland

September 29th, 2016

Machine that can morph by change its shape to perform different tasks, developed at Heriot-Watt University by Dr Kong’s AIM (Adaptive Intelligent Motion) group, is now on display at the National Museum of Scotland for the next six months. 


Heriot-Watt team secures second place in China UK Enterpreneurship Challenge 2016

September 29th, 2016

Heriot-Watt team, led by Our Dr. Xianwen Kong, secured the second place in China UK Enterpreneurship Challenge 2016 in London at the Bank of China. The team presented the world's first two-axis robotic device, designed to rotate like a human eye. This win allowed the team to get investment to continue improving the device.


PCMag spoke with Dr. Katrin Solveig Lohan to find out how iCub got its sea legs and learned to talk.

September 25th, 2016

While attending the RO-MAN 2016 conference in New York, Dr. Katrin S. Lohan was interviewed by the PC Magazin.

You can read more about it here:

This iCub Robot Is Learning to Walk, Talk, and Grow

Heriot-Watt University Robotics Lab at RO-MAN 2016

September 14th, 2016

On the verge of its 25th anniversary, IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN) has finished in New York with notable participation by the robotics lab representatives from the Heriot-Watt University.


ROS Seminar and tutorial session

Talk: Experiences in software management and continuous integration in a ROS-based robotics project by Dr Marc Hanheide Tutorial session on ROS: Basic introduction into the Robot Operating System using Python.
ROS Seminar and tutorial session

Talk by Dr. Marc Hanheide

On the 14th of July we had an ROS day organised by Katrin Lohan Christian Dondrup and Frank Broz in collaboration with Dr Marc Hanheide and the RoboticsLab and InteractionLab teams.

Dr Marc Hanheide, Reader at School of Computer Science, College of Science, University of Lincoln,

presented a seminar talk on: Experiences in software management and continuous integration in a ROS-based robotics project


Robotics research has become an inherently team-focused endeavour, with a key challenge being software integration and system architectures. Not only the excellence of individual research contributions, but also the level of integration and the synergies from the interplay of state-of-the-art components and building blocks has shifted into the focus of attention, both in reviews of large-scale projects, as well as in the actual science itself. In my presentation, I will present an overview of the STRANDS project in which we have gathered a wealth of experience in deploying complex, autonomous robotic systems in real-world environments. These robots serve to support care and security staff autonomously over periods of weeks, without any engineer support on-site. Such an endeavour requires stringent develop and deployment procedures to ensure highest software quality and stability. I will share how such integrated systems can be build using the Robot Operating System (ROS); how systematic, automated testing can be facilitated; and how software and updated can easily be deployed and maintained. The audience will learn about the key contributions of the STRANDS project itself and practical aspects of software integration in large-scale robotics projects. 


Talk: Slides 

The talk was followed by a hands on tutorial session of about 3 h.

Tutorial session on ROS: Basic introduction into the Robot Operating System using Python, 

lead by Christian Dondrup 


Python programming, tutorial task with ROS, Virtual Box


ROS Tutorial 1 ROS Tutorial 2 ROS Tutorial 3

ROS Tutorial 3 ROS Tutorial 4 ROS Tutorial 6


Blog on ethics in robotics for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering written by Dr Patricia A. Vargas

June 29th, 2016

Dr Patricia A. Vargas was invited to write a blog for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering website on ethics and robotics.

The blog was posted this Tuesday, 28th of June and can be found here:



Edinburgh International Science Festival: The Rights of the Machine

February 4th, 2016

Dr Patricia Vargas together with Alan Bundy, Professor of Automated Reasoning at the University of Edinburgh and the AI researcher Dr Michael Hermann  explored on 4th of April the rights of the machine during the Edinburgh International Science Festival. The event was hosted by Sean Elliott and it was a great success with more than 70 participants.

For further information, please visit the Science Festival event page.

Post-Science Festival Digest

April 11th, 2016

Our lab members were demoing NAOs, Baxter and other robots from the robotics lab during the science festival in Edinburgh between 26th and 30th of March.

Viewers were entertained by NAOs playing football and dancing, while the Baxter allowed to be hand-controlled by anyone who was interested.

Videos are available:

science_festival_1 science_festival_2 science_festival_3  science_festival_4

Heriot-Watt University Virtual Tours

February 15th, 2016

Take advantage of the virtual tours to meet us and explore our campuses in the UK, Dubai and Malaysia. You can view facilities, accommodations and other exciting areas around the campuses.

More information available at

German Native Scientist volunteers reaching out to children from the AllemannFun German Saturday school

February 15th, 2016

On Saturday 6th of Feb, 11 German Native Scientist volunteers talked to children from the AllemannFun German Saturday school about their research. We were allowed to use the teaching labs at Edinburgh Napier University Sighthill Campus. The children learned about robotics, chemistry, biology, mikrobiology, geology, brains and books.

Very happy German Native Scientist Team after their 1st session in Edinburgh - our stats: 7 stations 11 volunteers 44 children and 100% fun.


For more details:


More photos can be found in the Google Photo Gallery.


RoboticsLabs collaboration with the Department of Design and Communication of the Syddansk Universitet.

February 13th, 2016

Under the roof of the PhD project of Lars Jensen: “What makes a robot a good learning tool in foreign language acquisition? – Investigations of how a persuasive robot tutee can increase students’ interactional engagement.”

We ported the tutor-spotter system developed by Katrin Lohan [1], during the Italk EU-project from the iCub Humanoid robot platform (height 120 cm) onto the JD Humanoid Robot (height 30cm).


This is the original tutor spotter: 

iCub Responsive Gazing Behaviour

Then the ported tutor spotter system:

Preview image for JD Humanoid Robot video


[1] Lohan, K. S., Rohlfing, K., Pitsch, K., Saunders, J., Lehmann, H., Nehaniv, C. L., Fischer, K., et al. (2012). Tutor spotter: Proposing a feature set and evaluating it in a robotic system. International Journal of Social Robotics, 4(2), 131-146.

MACS Computer Science Seminar on 17th of February

Monday, 8th of February

Shaping human-aware navigation and human-robot joint motion using long-term adaptation

Christian Dondrup

University of Lincoln

2:15PM, Feb 17, 2015

EM G.45



Enabling a mobile service robot to move in a human populated environment is not only a question of safety but also of predictability, consistency, and the general feeling of comfort of the human. There are currently many approaches of solving this issue but most of them are built on constraints and static learning methods and not on long-term learning through interaction. The main focus of this talk and the underlying thesis, therefore, is the creation of novel approaches to shape a robots spatial behaviour ”on-the-fly” using long-term experiences from engagements in joint movements with lay users in an elder care home and trying to find and understand adaptation needs and thereby create a predictable, readable and consistent robot behaviour.


The techniques used build on the popular Robot Operating System (ROS) navigation stack and use a state-of-the-art local planner to transfer qualitative representations of the interactions between human and robot into discrete movement commands. The Qualitative Trajectory Calculus (QTC) is the underlying qualitative representation for the robots behaviour and the means of identifying the current situation based on a particle filter approach. The initial Markov Models used for the classification and the probability tables to determine the robots behaviour are learned from demonstration and are altered (shaped) towards the users preferences using explicit and implicit feedback.



Christian Dondrup is currently a PhD candidate at university of Lincoln. His topic is: "Shaping human-aware navigation and human-robot joint motion using long-term adaptation."

He is working in the STRANDS, 4-year EU FP7 Integrated Project. Previous he was a MSc student in Bielefeld University, with the topic: "Keyword Tagging and Learning using a Detection Based System in a Human-Robot Tutoring Scenario".

This talk is also publicised via: and


Spreading the word about our work

Thursday, 28th of January

On Monday and Tuesday Katrin was presenting our work in the University of Kent and the University of Hertfordshire.


IEEE-SA Emerging Technology Award Certificate

Friday, 11th of December


Congratulations to Dr Patricia Vargas’s IEEE Ontologies for Robotics and Automation working group.  They were awarded the IEEE-SA Emerging Technology Award at a ceremony on Sunday 6th December, 2015 for developing the 'Core Ontologies for Robotics and Automation' standard that specifies the main, most general concepts, relations, and axioms of robotics and automation (R&A). This is the first standard and one of the first ontology-based IEEE standards.

More information at

Robotics display for Scottish Government

Friday 11th of December

Lab's researchers were able to show their work to the high profile audience - the Scottish Government at the Ministerial reception at Our Dynamic Earth.
Our stand was the highlight of the exhibition


AI-HRI 2015

Nov 2015, Washington DC

This years AI-HRI fall symposium had not only a great atmosphere it was full of great research and inspiration.


New heavy-weight member of the HWU RoboticsLab

Tuesday 10th of November 2015

Established robotic family adds a new heavy-weight member to its circle - FLASH, the social one.

During assembly on department's premises, FLASH amused everyone by emotionally reporting social media statuses, forecasting the weather, narrating planned calendar events, and taking pictures of the assembly team as they tried to put the FLASH together.

From the first day the FLASH gathered quite an audience of academic staff and the students that were already willing to interact with it.


The 2nd Robotics Lab Research Students Workshop

30th October

Todays 2nd Robotics Lab Research Students Workshop was a very inspiring and exciting event at Heriot-Watt University. 

We like to celebrate all our speakers and congratulate them to their progress in their work and on the great presentations.


Patricia, Xianwen, Frank and Katrin

2nd Robotics Lab Research Students Workshop

30th October 2015

In this training event our students are presenting their current work. It is meant to support them on their presentations skills as well as give them feedback to improve their research. 














Ingo Keller





Steven Kay





Amani Mansur





Hugo Sardinha




Coffe-Break (Robot demos/Networking)





Marta Vallejo





Mark Young





Jieyu Wang





Eli Sheppard




Coffe-Break (Robot demos/Networking)





Thibault Lacourtablaise





Julian Ertel





Boris Mocialov





Tatiana Lopez-Guevara








Robot demos/Networking


The talks are recorded and their is feedback given to each presenter on their presenting styl and their research.

RoboticsLab in the media.

19 September

The roboticsLab is all over the media at the moment. If you are interested in the articles and videos here you can find some:


The Heriot-Watt news presenting our BBC footage.


The Sunday Herald presents Dr. Patricia Vargas and Prof. Ruth Aylett with an article on: "Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and robots: the emotionally literate teaching machines being pioneered in Scotland".

The Scotsman presents Nikita and Dr. Katrin Lohan.

RoboticsLab at the BBC

September 2015
This week, 3 academics from our Robotics Lab, Dr Patricia A Vargas (Director), Dr Katrin Lohan (Deputy Director) and Prof Ruth Aylett plus 3 other researchers, Steven Kay, Ingo Keller and Srinivasan Janarthanam, went down to London to give interviews at the BBC and present demos to show their work. They took many robotic equipment, including three NAOs, several e-pucks, one air-drone and Nikita our iCub talking head.

With enthusiasm they made a success of the Intelligent Machines day on Monday at the BBC. They were able to demonstrate a great range of research, in a way that looked great on television.

You can check the recorded interview/demo videos below.

PhD Student Ingo Keller at LAMoR15

The STRANDS project organised the Summer School on Long-term Autonomy for Mobile Robots, or LAMoR for short.
PhD Student Ingo Keller at LAMoR15

LAMoR Group Yellow

The topics covered were inspired by the objectives of STRANDS and encompass research on

  • Long-term mapping
  • Robust navigation
  • Person Perception and Activity Understanding
  • Computer Vision for Robots
  • Long-term Autonomy


The summer school provided lectures and tutorials for all topics. Split in 4 groups of 6, the participants were given the task to produce a small demo using the provided software tools. All of the STRANDS software is available on github!

Ingo joined group yellow working on the robot Betty. Together they managed to provide a demo of a random walking robot. Betty would speak to people which she could recognize based on provided visual marker and would tell random funny facts, the next day's temperature and some jokes. Find out more about the demo on the provided poster.

"The LAMoR Summer School was a great success. It provided a very good overview about all the aspects. Working on the robot was a lot of fun. Given the short amount of time I was suprised that we could get the demo running in time. The organizers did a great job. I'm looking forward to join for the next round next year." Ingo Keller

Find out more:

RoboticsLab organises a special session at RoMan 2015

September 2015

For more details revere to:


Dr Lohan lecturing at the Summer School on Social Human-Robot Interaction

August 24-28th 2015

Her talk on "Attentive systems for HRI" was on Wednesday.
Abstract: One of the key problems in HRI is to create a natural interaction with humans. To achieve this, a focus point of communication is necessary between the robot and the user(s). Also, the robot should be able to select the focus point. I will present multiple bio-inspired and developmental approaches to select the focus of attention for a robotic system. The presented approaches are based on visual and audio input. Next, I show the impact a feedback strategy based on these approaches has on a human robot interaction. Furthermore, I will discuss shared gaze/diadic/triadic joint attention mechanisms and will present work on saliency systems and anticipatory gaze.

Bram Vanderborghts Foto.

The 2nd International Summer School on Social Human-Robot Interaction welcomes PhD students and young researchers for an intensive five days of lectures and ateliers covering a wide range of topics in social HRI. It follows up from the 1st Summer School held at Christ’s College, Cambridge, UK.

The summer school was held at Käringsund Resort & Conference (, Åland, Finland from Monday 24 August to Friday 28 August 2015.

Dr Patricia A Vargas and Alistair McConnell visiting ELS International Institute of Neuroscience (IIN-ELS) in Brazil.

June~July 2015

Dr Patricia A Vargas, Director of the Robotics Lab, and the PhD student, Alistair McConnell, just visited the ELS International Institute of Neuroscience (IIN-ELS) in Brazil. 

They stayed at the Institute for a month in June and July, working on a collaboration project named SOPHIA, funded by the Royal Society and Newton Fund.

Below is a picture of the partners and other research staff from Brasil.

School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt Universitys Foto.

Converge Challenge 2015

Alistair McConnell, Patricia Vargas, David Corne and Adam Stokes are pleased to announce that our proposal to Converge Challenge 2015 is now part of Heriot-Watt "Magnificent Seven".

We are happy to share the news that our proposal to Converge Challenge 2015 has been put forward to the second round.

Welcome Nikita, to our robot family.

February 2015

Today our new iCub talking head "NIKITA" has arrived at the our Lab. "Nikita" is now a part of our robotics lab family and we hope that Nikita will learn new skills with us, e.g. talking, finding a focus of attention and engaging in natural interaction with humans. So if you are interested in a demo or like to do a research project with Nikita please feel free to contact us.



The Robotics Lab: Research Open Day

Friday 27th March 2015

If you like to discuss about robotics and if you are interested in having an interdisciplinary view of the field or, if you would like just to know more about our current and future research, please come along and join our event. Our Robotics Lab Research Open Day addresses everyone who is interested in robotics. The full day of activities includes invited talks, home talks, networking slots and panel discussions.

We have invited 3 external collaborators of the Robotics Lab. They are experts in the field of robotics and cognitive science, who will present their research and emphasise the connection between the state of the art research and industry in this field. 

The first speaker, Prof. Angelo Cangelosi, will show the interdisciplinarity of our research field. The second speaker, Dr. Marc Hanheide, will highlight the applicability to consumer targeted products and problems in the current research. Our final speaker, Dr. Micael Couceiro, will present how research can then be linked to industry by building a successful spin-out company.

We are happy to welcome everyone who is interested, in particular students (undergrads, postgrads) and colleagues, from Heriot-Watt University and also from other institutions.

You can register here.

Royal Society-Newton International Exchanges (Newton Fund) Scheme

March 2015

Dr Patricia A. Vargas (Heriot-Watt University) and Dr Adam Stokes (University of Edinburgh) together with the PhD Student, Alistair McConnell, have just secured funding under the Royal Society-Newton International Exchanges (Newton Fund) Scheme. This will support their collaboration with the top Brazilian Neuroscience Institute for one year. 

BBC visit to the Robotics Lab

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Invitation to Guest Lecture - Professor Ikuo Yamamoto

Friday 9th January 2015

We are delighted to invite you to attend a  Guest Lecture entitled “Research on Robotic Fish and New Advanced Robotics” by Professor Ikuo Yamamoto, preceded by networking and refreshments.

Professor Yamamoto is from the Graduate School of Engineering at Nagasaki University in Japan. His areas of work include the development of an autonomous underwater vehicle (Leader of  AUV “Urashima”, which established the world record of 317km autonomous cruising in February 2005), Remotely Operated Vehicle (Champion in  underwater vehicle competition of Techno ocean world convention in 2012;  Kaiko, a 10000m deep cruising ROV in 1995), Robotic fish (the first life-like sea bream robotic fish was created in 1995, followed by dolphin, shark, ray and carp).

Professor Yamamoto held the post of Research Manager at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries where he was involved in projects which included the manufacture of the wings for the Boeing 787, multi -rotor aviation and real time monitoring and sensing system. His robotic space fish operated in the International Space Station in 2009 and he has worked on medical robots and instruments used for surgery and rehabilitation based on biological engineering technologies. Professor Yamamoto has published a number of papers and books and has won several awards at international conferences.


Time:                     Refreshments and Networking from 1.30pm

Lecture at 2pm

Location:              Room EMG19 (Earl Mountbatten Building) at Heriot Watt University


Full-size image: 2.19 MB | View image View Download image Download