Open Virtual Worlds Impact Innovation Funding Success

Dr Alan Miller and Catherine Anne Cassidy of the Open Virtual Worlds research group have been successful in funding from the Impact Innovation Fund for their project “Evidencing and Amplifying Impact of Immersive Exhibits in Highlands and Islands Museums”. The project will evaluate the value of digital heritage engagement with virtual reality exhibitions and further develop opportunities to preserve and promote cultural heritage in the highlands and islands of Scotland. Collaborative activities and approaches trialled are intended to discover ways to maximise positive impact. Exhibits are part of the Northern Heritage Network, which provides an infrastructure for transnational collaboration of heritage organisations to preserve and promote heritage within and beyond the North Sea region. The geographical focus of the network is: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Scotland, Island of Ireland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and the Baltic countries.

Lockdown and COVID-19 meant that the focus of the heritage sector was how to connect with audiences remotely. Whether this be through live online events, social media, virtual tours or other means. In the coming year there is much emphasis on sustainability and on the return of visitors to museums.

Evidence prior to COVID-19 shows that such exhibits have a positive impact in: communicating heritage, improving the sustainability of museums, improving visitor numbers and contributing to the wider Scottish economy. This is recognised by museums who are setting aside valuable space, and time to host immersive exhibits in the coming year. Through developing, deploying and using immersive exhibits we will enhance the “within walls” museum experience with the following impacts:

  • Create digital heritage assets: including 3D models, historic scenes and records of intangible heritage.
  • Improve the way that heritage is communicated.
  • Connect communities with their museum and their heritage.
  • Make learning engaging, improve understanding and motivate learning
  • Contribute to social cohesion and inclusion.
  • Contribute to well being.
  • Contribute to the sustainability of museums.
  • Contribute to the tourist economy and prosperity.

Design of a Heritage Impact Toolkit for digital heritage engagement evaluation will facilitate relevant data collection for West Highland Museum, Timespan Museum, Tomintoul & Glenlivet Discovery Centre, North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme, Finlaggan Trust, Museum of Islay Life, and Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath.

Through surveys, interviews and observation we will collect evidence of impact. Identified profiles for evidence collection include end users (visitors), stakeholders (community), museum and visitor centres (heritage practitioners), and third party organisations (e.g., Creative Scotland, European Commission, ICOM), This will be combined with statistics including visitor numbers and feedback from visitors. Inquiry will cover:

  • Accessibility – whether the exhibition is easy to use and improves accessibility to heritage,
  • Learning – whether the exhibit is effective as a learning resource, helping to learn, reassess views on the topic and generating motivation to engage,
  • Social impact – whether the exhibit helps users engage in heritage and promotes community develop inclusion and cohesion,
  • Engagement – whether the exhibit is engaging and immersive.

SICSA DVF Seminar – Dr André G. Pereira

We had our first School seminar of the semester today. The speaker was André G. Pereira visiting Scotland on a SICSA DVF Fellowship. André is working on AI Planning problems, an area that is closely related to the work of our own Constraint Programming research group.

Title: Understanding Neuro-Symbolic Planning

Abstract: In this seminar, we present the area of neuro-symbolic planning, introducing fundamental concepts and applications. We focus on presenting recent research on the problem of learning heuristic functions with machine learning techniques. We discuss the distinctions and particularities between the “model-based” and “model-free” approaches, and the different methods to address the problem. Then, we focus on explaining the behavior of “model-free” approaches. We discuss the generation of the training set, and present sampling algorithms and techniques to improve the quality of the training set. We also discuss how the distribution of samples over the state space of a task, together with the quality of its estimators, are directly related to the quality of the learned heuristic function. Finally, we empirically detail which factors have the greatest impact on the quality of the learned heuristic function.

Biography: Dr. André G. Pereira is a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. His research aims to develop and explain the behavior of intelligent systems for sequential decision-making problems. Dr. Pereira has authored several papers on top-tier venues such as IJCAI, AAAI, and ICAPS. These papers contribute towards explaining the behavior of heuristic search algorithms, how to use combinatorial optimization-based reasoning to solve planning tasks, and how to use machine learning techniques to produce heuristic functions. Dr. Pereira is a program committee member of IJCAI and AAAI. His doctoral dissertation was awarded second place in the national Doctoral Dissertation Contest on Computer Science (2017), and first place in the national Doctoral Dissertation Contest on Artificial Intelligence (2018). Dr. Pereira advised three awarded students on national events, including first place and finalist in the Scientific Initiation Work Contest (2018, 2022), and finalist in the Master Dissertation Contest on Artificial Intelligence (2020).

Virtual Open Worlds appear in The Herald

Alan Miller and The Virtual Open Worlds team appeared in The Herald earlier this month promoting their digital reconstruction of Fort William for the West Highland Museum

Using VR headsets, the team created a fully immersive virtual reality model of the old fort in Fort William in the days leading up to the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.

 

 

 

 

 

Research hub considers response to life beyond Earth

The new SETI Post-Detection Hub, coordinated by Dr John Elliott, an honorary research fellow of the School of Computer Science has gathered widespread press interest, across UK, Europe, USA, Canada, South America and South East Asia.

The Hub hosted by the Centre of Exoplanet Science and the Centre for Global Law and Governance of the University of St Andrews, will act as a coordinating centre for an international effort bringing together diverse expertise across both the sciences and the humanities for setting out impact assessments, protocols, procedures, and treaties designed to enable a responsible response should we discover intelligent life forms beyond our planet.

More information about the hub can be found in the university press release

Clouded | Uncovering The Culture Of Cloud

Congratulations to Blesson Varghese who features in a newly released documentary in collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and VMWare.

An original film that is uncovering the realities of cloud technology and its effects on both business and society. Many have grown confused with our relationship with a rapidly expanding cloud market, others are reflecting on their strategies. The question is, when did cloud become so ‘Clouded’.

Clouded confronts some of the uncomfortable truths that exist in today’s cloud culture. This is a journey of discovery that uncovers topics which undoubtedly require further thought by governments, enterprise businesses and technology executives.

The full documentary can be watched at https://www.consciouslyhybrid.com

Research Away Day October 2022

Thanks to everyone who attended the school Research away day. The day was very informative and lots of ideas were created.

It was lovely to meet our Ukrainian Visiting Academics Maryna Novozhylova and Olga Chub.

We would also like to thank our guests, Ricky Shek from careers, Kirsty Ross from RIS,  Adeel Shafi and Jayshree Johnstone from business development.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship for Nguyen Dang

Congratulations to Dr Nguyen Dang, who has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship. The 3 year Fellowships are intended to assist those at an early stage of their academic careers to undertake a significant piece of publishable work. Nguyen will be researching Constraint-based automated generation of synthetic benchmark instances.

Abstract summary: “Combinatorial problems such as routing or timetabling are ubiquitous in society, industry, and academia. In the quest to develop algorithms to solve these problems effectively, we need benchmark instances. An instance is an example of the problems at hand for testing how well an algorithm performs. Having rich benchmarks of instances is essential for algorithm developers to gain understanding about the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches, and ensure successful applications in practice. This fellowship will provide a fully automated system for generating valid and useful synthetic benchmark instances based on a constraint modelling pipeline that supports several algorithmic techniques.”

Winnability of Klondike Solitaire research features in Major Nelson’s video podcast

Research carried out by Charlie Blake and Ian Gent to compute the approximate odds of winning any version of solitaire features in Major Nelson’s Video Podcast [Interview with Ian and Charlie starts 23:56] for XBox news today.

Today is National Solitaire Day and the 30th anniversary of the game. The celebrations include an invitation to participate in a record breaking attempt at the most games of Microsoft Solitaire completed in one day. You can download the collection free or play it through your browser.

The Klondike Solitaire research also featured in the New Scientist last year.
Link to the full paper on arxiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.12314

Online article published in Technology Nov 17th 2019: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2223643-we-finally-know-the-odds-of-winning-a-game-of-solitaire/

Professor Simon Dobson elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE)

Congratulations to Head of School Simon Dobson who has been elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his exceptional achievements in science. This prestigious award recognises expertise which supports the “advancement of learning and knowledge in Scottish public life”. The RSE established in 1783, plays a leading role in “the development of a modern enlightenment that will enable Scotland to contribute significantly to addressing the global challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century”. The RSE announced its newly-elected 2020 Fellows on Tuesday, describing Fellows as “leading thinkers and experts from Scotland and around the world whose work has a significant impact on our nation”.

Simon works on adaptive systems, especially those driven by sensors. He has concentrated recently on how to make robust decisions from sensor data as the sensor system degrades, which is a critical foundation for making best use of the torrent of data coming from the “Internet of Things”. He is also interested in complex processes such as how epidemics spread in a population and how urban transport networks function, where mathematical models need to be complemented by repeatable and validated computational experiments that pose a major software challenge.