31 May 2010: i++ School Newsletters, May 2010

 24 May 2010

New EPSRC Award: UCT for Games and Beyond

A new joint research project between the University of Essex, Imperial College, and the University of Bradford has been given the go-ahead.  The three-year project will receive in excess of £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to fund a senior research officer and PhD student at each site.

The project will be let by Professor Simon Lucas at Essex, Dr Simon Colton at Imperial, and Professor Peter Cowling at Bradford.

The title of the project is UCT for Games and Beyond. 

Simon LucasProfessor Lucas commented: “The project is all about researching new algorithms for Monte-Carlo Tree Search (MCTS), which has to be one of the most exciting research areas in machine learning and games.  UCT is a particular type of MCTS algorithm which has made enormous advances in the field of computer Go over the last few years (Go being one of the few classic games where expert human players still have the edge over their machine counterparts).  The Essex part of the project is concerned with developing and applying these algorithms to video games and real-time control problems, where the appeal of UCT is the realisation of general purpose agents who are able to act intelligently with a minimal degree of application-specific programming.  Bradford will study how best to deal with incomplete and uncertain information, while Imperial will research other applications of UCT beyond action-selection.  There are significant challenges to overcome, but the potential applications are enormous.”




Essex Research Student wins British Computer Society 4th East Anglian PhD Competition

On 21 May the British Computer Society’s competition for the best research presentation in the East Anglian Region saw Essex researcher Adam Hill declared as the winner. This was the fourth PhD competition of its type. The three speakers came from the University of Cambridge, the University of East Anglia, and the University of Essex and the presentations were given in front of an expert audience at Norwich.

Adam Hill receives his certificate.

Adam Hill receives his certificate from Mr Tony Hainsworth of the BCS.

The Cambridge speaker, Joseph Bonneau, came from the prestigious Computer Laboratory, where research on computer security is conducted under the leadership of Professor Ross Anderson.  The subject of that talk, entitled Security and Privacy in Social Networks, was how graph theory can illuminate connections amongst participants in social networking sites, thus infringing their privacy. The University of East Anglia’s Roberto Montagna’s talk, entitled Image enhancing colour2grey and n-to-1 channel transformation, described an innovative image-processing technique in which colour images were transformed to grey-scale images in such a way that features highlighted in the colour domain were preserved in the grey-scale domain. Adam’s talk, entitled Unscrambling the egg - Delivering uniform listening experiences in small rooms, was about his chameleon woofer scheme to craft an acoustic space in which troubling spatial nulls caused by standing waves in the low-frequency range could be designed away. Adam’s scheme employs just four speakers with different characteristics for small rooms. He additionally changed their response when the signal crossed a frequency threshold. The technique opens up the possibility that participants sitting in a concert hall could text their desired acoustic response and the sound system could adjust to that and other requests.

Adam’s research supervisor at Essex is Professor Malcolm Hawksford, recipient of a life-time achievement award from the world leading organization for professional engineers and students, the Audio Engineering Society. The independent judges considered all the presentations meritorious but singled out Adam’s as he had constructed an extensive software toolkit based on a finite-difference model which allowed him to predict the response of low frequency sound systems. Adam was also able to answer off-subject questions such as one about the acoustic effect that leads to the placement of low-frequency orchestral instruments at the periphery of the players’ platform. The BCS representatives presented Adam with a cheque for £200 and a winner’s certificate.


Computer science and Electronic Engineering Conference

The second Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Conference (CEEC) will be taking place on 8 and 9 September 2010 at the
University of Essex.

CEEC is an ideal venue for postgraduate researchers in the disciplines of mathematics, computer science, engineering, physics, biology and finance to meet fellow researchers in their field. The conference, organised by a group of research students from the University of Essex, aims to create a forum in which the participants can work together, discuss, compare and debate different innovative ideas and solutions.

CEEC aims to present the current and recent works of postgraduate researchers and provides them with the following opportunities:

  • To formally record their work in a recognised published proceeding.
  • To present, discuss and get feedback on their research with a friendly audience of colleagues as well as experts in the field.
  • To form new contacts, providing professional networking prospects that help with integration into the scientific community.
  • To win prizes for the best papers/presentations.

Postgraduate researchers are hereby invited to submit papers related to their current and recent research. The conference will be hosted by the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

See the CEEC website for further details.


Placement Opportunity

If you are a graduating student experienced with building Web sites and with familiarity in content management software and/or the graphical and presentational side and you are looking for a paid job for a month or so, then please contact Dave Lyons for further details. Dave is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering who also runs a local charity, Opportunities Through Technology, and he would like to hear from you.


Paper Accepted

Adam J. Hill and Malcolm O. J. Hawksford, Multi-band low-frequency room correction with chameleon subwoofer arrays, European Acoustics Association EUROREGIO 2010, Ljubljana, Slovenia, September 15 - 18, 2010.

Abstract- Variations in the acoustic pressure response across a closed-space listening area result in inconsistent listening experiences dominant within the low-frequency band. An emerging solution proposed as the next evolutionary state in room correction systems involves an array of generalized subwoofers where each loudspeaker has a three-dimensional, frequency-dependent polar response operating over multiple low-frequency bands; a configuration termed a chameleon subwoofer array. System optimization is performed by measuring pressure responses at strategic room coordinates from which a set of orthogonal transfer functions is derived and applied to each degree of freedom within the array. The correction procedure benefits not only the set of discrete measurement points, but all points within the defined listening area. Performance is validated by finite-difference time-domain acoustic simulation taken over a random walk within a virtual acoustic listening space.


Forthcoming Seminars

Wednesday 26 May, 16.00,  Room 1N.1.4.1

Raymond Turner

 Logic & Computation

Computer Science has had a rather large impact upon formal logic. Classical, intuitionistic, modal, temporal, deontic, free and partial logic have all found computational applications. These range from the analysis of algorithms and programs, the specification of software systems, the formalisation of termination, the representation of time and events, through to the articulation of legal norms in computational law.  Set theory, higher order logic, second order lambda calculus and the calculus of constructions have also found application in specification, theorem proving, and in the definition of polymorphism. In addition, computer science has itself generated whole new logical systems and frameworks.  A recent estimation has it that over 500 new logical variations and systems have entered the literature in the last 50 years. Some of these are variations on the classical ones, but many are genuinely new systems e.g. substructural logics, dynamic logics, logics of events and processes etc, etc. In this talk we shall offer a superficial and accessible overview of this work. We shall do so by employing a framework in which many (if not all) of these new computational systems maybe recast in a conceptually satisfactory way. Typed Predicate Logic (Turner 2009) is a system of logic in which the notion of type theory plays a parallel role to that played by the notion of first-order theory in standard first-order predicate logic. Through this notion much of the logical work in Computer Science may be formalised and unified.


Wednesday 2 June, 16.00, Room 1N.1.4.1

Steve Phelps

Biological Markets: A Catalyst for the Major Transitions?

Many approaches to engineering emergence are biologically inspired. The implicit assumption in such approaches is that natural selection is sufficient to produce emergent complexity. However, one of the puzzles of evolutionary biology is that the complexity we observe in nature cannot always be explained solely by natural selection operating at the level of individual genes. For most of our planet's history, life consisted of simple single-celled organisms and it is only relatively recently that a diverse range of more complex and specialized phenotypes emerged. In early evolutionary history, genes themselves were not the original replicators. Rather, the intricate machinery for replicating strands of DNA itself evolved from more primitive systems of molecules that were able to self-replicate in the absence of enzymes. Complexity in nature emerged from a series of such “major transitions” in the units of selection: genes cooperated to form regulatory networks; similarly cells emerged from networks, multi-cellular organisms from cells and societies from organisms.

Thus we exchange one puzzle for another: if the major transitions require the evolution of cooperation between lower-level selfish replicators, and we wish to explain how the transition to higher levels of selection is systematic, as opposed rather than merely serendipitous, then we need to explain how cooperative strategies can systematically evolve in populations of selfish agents.

A great deal of research has uncovered sufficient conditions for cooperative outcomes. However, although there are many stylised scenarios in which cooperation can be shown to stable, there are equally many in which defection prospers. A new approach to explaining reciprocity in nature appeals to one of the mechanisms that enable reciprocity in human societies, viz. markets. The central insight is that just as trade can give rise to specialisation and mutual benefit in our own species, the same principles apply to interactions in other species. The hypothesis is that this “invisible hand” is a universal phenomena of nature rather than a parochial artefact applying only to humans. If the invisible hand is indeed a universal phenomena of nature, it provides a powerful explanation for the major transitions in nature: for example, biodiversity arises from speciation, which I shall argue arises from economic incentives to specialise. This suggests that ideas from economics and finance may play a role in governing major transitions in artificial systems, and hence the engineering of emergence.


10 May 2010

Final Year Project Presentation Prize

The Finalist Project Presentation was held on 11 May and the Best Project Presentation Prize of £100 was awarded to Katrine Molden (BEng Audio Engineering), for her presentation on Simulated Microphone Arrays in Virtual Acoustic Space. The abstract is included at the end of this article.

The Final Year Project Open Day is held once a year to give the final year engineering degree students the opportunity to showcase their final year project. Each student is allocated a place to demonstrate their software/hardware and to discuss their work through a poster they have prepared.  A panel of judges selected four projects to go forward for the chance to win the Best Project Presentation Prize.

The finalists were Katrine Molden on Simulated Microphone Arrays in Virtual Acoustic Space, Carl Scrivener on Guitar Effects Processor using DSP, Michael Rosevear  on Roboyacht; A Truly Zero Carbon Vehicle and Xing Zhao Yan on Computer Aided design & Development of Wavelength – Tunable Telecommunication Lasers.


Katrine Molden, Simulated Microphone Arrays in Virtual Acoustic Space

Abstract - Microphone arrays consists of two or more microphones positioned in a particular pattern such that when combined with appropriate processing it can be used to:  

a)      Improve recordings by discriminating between sounds based on direction

b)      Localising spatial position of sound source  

This project concerns beamforming techniques which aim to improve audio recordings. The directional response of microphones and hence microphone arrays are inherently frequency dependant. This is not a problem in narrow band applications such as radars.   However, speech is a broadband signal and frequency dependency is therefore highly undesirable. A technique which avoids this is discussed, and the effect simulated in Matlab by the use of simulation material from two virtual acoustic spaces, produced by the use of the software CATT-Acoustic.  Discussion on real world implementation is also included.


Final Year Group Photo available to order

Group photo

The Final Year Group Photo is now available to order from the General Office. The cost is £4 for a 10 x 8 print in a presentation folder.

You must pay for the photo at the time of placing the order and with the correct money as the General Office does not carry change.

The deadline for ordering the prints is Friday 21 May at 4.30pm. The prints are expected to be ready to collect a week after that, Friday 28 May.


Summer Placement Opportunity  

If you are a second-year student with strong Web application skills, then please watch this space. One of our industrial links, JobServe at Tiptree, will be offering summer placements for some enthusiastic students. Details to follow. For informal enquiries, please contact Simon Lucas or Udo Kruschwitz via email.


REO Enterprise Drop in Session

The REO Enterprise Team would like to invite you to an informal “drop in” session on Wednesday 19 May 2010, from 10am-1pm.  Tea, coffee and cakes will be provided and you will have the opportunity to talk to the Enterprise Team about any ideas or questions you may have relating to Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, Consultancy, Intellectual Property protection, Patenting, Licensing, etc.

If you have a specific area or idea you would like to discuss, please let us know what time you will be attending so that we can ensure the right person is available to help. You can arrange this by contacting Linette Edonya, on extension 2925 or  

If you can’t commit to a specific time, or would just like to find out more about Knowledge Transfer in general, please do drop by at any stage during the session.  We’ll be here on Wednesday 19 May between 10am-1pm, in the REO Board Room (room 5.609) in the Rab Butler Building on Square 2.

We aim to make this event an informative, enjoyable and regular occurrence and we look forward to seeing you.


Staff News

Professor Huosheng Hu and Professor Simon Lucas

HuoshengProfessor Huosheng Hu and Professor Simon Lucas have been invited to serve once again on the EPSRC Peer Review College. Professor Hu has been a member of the College since 2000.






SimonProfessor Simon Lucas will give an invited tutorial at Parallel Problem Solving from Nature (PPSN) 2010 in Krakow, Poland, in September. PPSN is one of the leading conferences on evolutionary computation.

The title the tutorial is "Learning to Play Games". For more details see here.





Paper Published

M. R. Al-Mulla, F. Sepulveda (2010), Novel Feature modelling the Prediction and detection Of sEMG Muscle Fatigue towards Autonomous wearable system, Sensors, 10(5):4838-4854, doi:10.3390/s100504838. 

Abstract - Surface Electromyography (sEMG) activity of the biceps muscle was recorded from ten subjects performing isometric contraction until fatigue. A novel feature (1D spectro_std) was used to extract the feature that modeled three classes of fatigue, which enabled the prediction and detection of fatigue. Initial results of class separation were encouraging, discriminating between the three classes of fatigue, a longitudinal classification on Non-Fatigue and Transition-to-Fatigue shows 81.58% correct classification with accuracy 0.74 of correct predictions while the longitudinal classification on Transition-to-Fatigue and Fatigue showed lower average correct classification of 66.51% with a positive classification accuracy 0.73 of correct prediction. Comparison of the 1D spectro_std with other sEMG fatigue features on the same dataset show a significant improvement in classification, where results show a significant 20.58% (p < 0.01) improvement when using the 1D spectro_std to classify Non-Fatigue and Transition-to-Fatigue. In classifying Transition-to-Fatigue and Fatigue results also show a significant improvement over the other features giving 8.14% (p < 0.05) on average of all compared features.


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