QUB Grads Develop Smart Car Technology

Graduates from Queens University are working with a Belfast technology firm to develop new "empathic" machines, including cars that can measure and respond to the feelings of their occupants.

Road rage incidents may be avoided in the future thanks to the system the researchers are progressing with Sensum, a company that specialises in "empathic artificial intelligence". Car technology will pick up on emotions and stress and respond appropriately, for instance by adjusting climate settings or offering to switch to self drive mode.

Christine Spencer, Cognitive Psychologist at Sensum and Knowledge Transfer Associate with Queen's University, said: "When the findings of your research contribute to new products from global business customers it challenges you to design practical experiments and collect robust data. We are exploring new scientific insights for application in real-life scenarios, which is very rewarding."

Dr Gary McKeown, who is supervising the projects, added: "The partnership between Sensum and Queen's is an outstanding example of industry and academia collaborating. The trust and productivity we have established over eight years of working together has become a valuable pathway for the commercialisation of scientific knowledge."
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The research is being carried out at Sensum's in-house lab for researching human emotion and cognitive states. The lab contains an immersive driving simulator with a wide range of sensors that measure physiological changes, facial expressions, voice patterns and more. Various driver emotions have been explored in a range of scenarios, not just in the laboratory, but also out on the road. In response to some of Sensum's global automotive customers, there has been a recent focus on researching driver stress.     

The work by Sensum and Queen's has made Belfast an area of global excellence when it comes to creating artificial intelligence technology from the latest emotion science.

Dr Daniel Moore, Lead Data Scientist at Sensum and Knowledge Transfer Associate with Queen's University Belfast, commented: "Empathy is becoming a major step forward for artificial intelligence so our work is contributing to a new generation of smart technology that can interact with people in increasingly personalised and helpful ways."

Gawain Morrison, CEO & Co-Founder at Sensum, said: "Our close relationship with Queen's connects us with a world-class scientific institute, fuelling the journey from innovative research to product deployment for some of the largest brands in the world. Now, as this kind of technology finally comes of age, industry demand is only going to grow."

The KTP partnerships are co-funded by Innovate UK and Invest Northern Ireland. Invest NI has committed to provide £4.9m in funding between 2018-2023 towards Knowledge Transfer Partnerships for Northern Ireland businesses.


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