Peter Robinson


My research concerns problems at the boundary between people and computers. This involves investigating new technologies to enhance communication between computers and their users, and new applications to exploit these technologies.

For some years, I have been pioneering video input and output as part of the user interface. The idea is to develop augmented environments in which everyday objects acquire computational properties, rather than virtual environments where the user is obliged to inhabit a synthetic world. Xerox sponsored three of my research students, who laid the groundwork for a new model of interaction based on video user interfaces. Together we built a user interface based on video projection and digital cameras, extended this for remote collaboration, and investigated the use of a camera for input alone.

  • Pierre Wellner: Interacting with paper on the DigitalDesk, Communications of the ACM 36(7), July 1993, pp 87-96.
  • Pierre Wellner & Steve Freeman: The DoubleDigitaldesk: Shared editing of paper documents, Rank Xerox EuroPARC Technical Report EPC-93-108, 1993.
  • Quentin Stafford-Fraser & Peter Robinson: BrightBoard - a video augmented environment, Proceedings ACM Conference on Computer-Human Interaction, Vancouver BC, April 1996, pp 134-141.

The research continued with support from the EPSRC to investigate combinations of electronic and conventional publishing, with applications in education.

  • Peter Robinson, Dan Sheppard, Richard Watts, Robert Harding & Steve Lay: A framework for interacting with paper, Computer Graphics Forum 16(3), September 1997, pp 329-334.
  • Heather Brown, Peter Robinson, Dan Sheppard, Richard Watts, Robert Harding & Steve Lay: Active Alice - using real paper to interact with electronic text, Proceedings 7th International Conference on Electronic Publishing, Saint Malo, April 1998, pp 407-419.
  • Peter Robinson: Digital manuscripts and electronic publishing, Editio 13, Autumn 1999, pp 337-346.

Thales Research & Technology have funded further work to consider very large projected displays and support for collaboration. This involves two-handed input using new tools to replace the keyboard and mouse, and also more general questions of visual interaction beyond the conventional desktop metaphor. We are continuing the work with a broader investigation of shared media spaces.

A further use of cameras is to observe users and infer their mental states. Another student has made considerable progress in recognising complex emotions that develop over several seconds from video images of a subject's face. This has several commercial applications. The work used video clips of professional actors for training and initial evaoluation; further trials were then conducted with emotions acted by delegates at a conference.

The research broadened to consider naturally evoked emotions, to draw information from other channels such as sound and posture, and to consider applications.

This led to work on computer vision for facial tracking, more general considerations of classifying mental states, ethical implications of affective inference and applications to other species.

I have also pursued a parallel line of research into inclusive user interfaces. A collaboration with the Engineering Design Centre has pursued questions of physical handicap, and research students have considered visual handicaps. This has broader applications for interaction with ubiquitous computers, where the input and output devices themselves impose limitations.

Finally, I work with colleagues at IBM on topics at the convergence of computing and communications to provide ubiquitous computing, and with colleagues at MIT on applications to support education.

Research grants

1984-1989 Xerox University Grant at Cambridge (~£500k).
1989-1992 HOL verification of Ella designs (SERC £137k).
1991-1996 Video user interfaces (three Xerox research studentships).
1994-1996 World class software (Teaching Company Scheme £267k).
1994-1997 Self-timed logic (EPSRC £135k).
1994-1997 Managing mobile connections (IBM research studentship).
1995-1998 Animated paper documents (EPSRC £268k).
1998-2002 Self-timed microcontrollers (EPSRC £536k).
1998-2002 New paradigms for visual interaction (EPSRC £230k).
1999-2002 Computer assistance for motion-impaired users (EPSRC £256k).
1999-2002 Personal projected displays (Thales research studentship).
2000-2003 Domestic user interfaces (AT&T CASE studentship).
2001-2003 VLSI structures for globally asynchronous systems (EPSRC £185k).
2003-2006 The intelligent book (CMI £200k + $416k at MIT).
2003-2005 Context-aware computing (IBM research studentship).
2004 Data conversion for accessibility (IBM $40k).
2004-2006 Sudden impact (CMI £240k + $565k at MIT).
2004-2007 Shared media spaces (Thales CASE studentship).
2005-2008 Affective inference for driver monitoring (Toyota Motor Corporation £190k)
2005-2009 Empathic avatars (EPSRC £265k + £295k at UCL)
2006-2008 Presenccia (EU €241k + 13 other partners)
2006-2007 Transforming Perspectives: technology to support the teaching and learning of threshold concepts (ESRC £47k)
2008 EECS Curriculum Workshop (CMI £18k + $28k at MIT).
2008-2011 Affective computing in control environments (Thales CASE studentship).
2009-2012 Affective interaction (Thales CASE studentship).
2011-2014 ASC Inclusion (EU €1.9m).
2012-2014 Multimodal and cognition-aware systems (EU €200k).
2013-2015 Deterrence of deception in socio-technical systems (EPSRC £966k).
2013-2016 Personalised health monitoring system (EU €295k).
2015-2017 Vision based research for the automotive domain (JLR £571k).
2015-2018 The science of human flourishing (Templeton Foundation £3m).

Research collaborators and visitors

1994-2003 Simon Moore
1995-1998 Robert Harding, Steve Lay, Dan Sheppard & Richard Watts
1997 Professor Heather Brown (University of Kent)
1998-2002 Alan Blackwell & Rachel Hewson
1998-2003 Steev Wilcox, George Taylor & Bob Mullins
1999-2002 John Clarkson & Simeon Keates
2000 Professor Frederick Brooks (University of North Carolina)
2002-2005 Douglas Dykeman & Stefan Hild (IBM Zurich)
2003-2005 Professors Hal Abelson & Gerry Sussman (MIT)
2003-2005 Mark Ashdown & Kazim Rehman
2004-2005 Silas Brown
2004-2006 Professor Eric Grimson (MIT)
2006-2008 Joe Newman
2006-2009 Metin Sezgin
2007 Professor Yoichi Sato (University of Tokyo) & Professor Imari Sato (Japanese National Institute of Informatics)
2007-2008 Professor Frederick Brooks (University of North Carolina)
2007-2008 & 2011-2013 Ian Davies
2010-2012 Andreas Bulling
2013 Professor Rafael Calvo (University of Sydney)
2013-2017 Szymon Fedor
2013-2015 Tadas Baltrušaitis
2014- Marwa Mahmoud
2015- Quentin Stafford-Fraser
2015-2016 Heng Yang
2016-2018 Bihao Wang