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Department of Computer Science Colloquium
2013 Series

Unsupervised Language Learning Meets the Teaching Head

Prof. David M W Powers
Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science
School of Computer Science
Engineering and Mathematics
Flinders University

Date: June 13, 2013 (Thursday)
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Venue: SCT909, Cha Chi Ming Science Tower, Ho Sin Hang Campus

In this talk we discuss a thirty year research focus on evolutionary and unsupervised learning techniques for the development of grounded natural language learning agent.

The research program has demonstrated algorithms that can discover features at the levels of speech, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and ontology, and also considers the evolution of language and the development of the mechanisms involved in language and ontology learning. A surprising conclusion is that an individual language learner does not so much learn his mother's language as evolve a distinct idiolect optimized across a broader range of social contexts including co-evolution of peer culture and dialects.

The grounded learning approach has employed both simulated and physical robots, and also explores sensor fusion for speech and emotion recognition. Recently the technology has been turned around so as to act as a grounded Teaching Head in a hybrid virtual world, with a long term focus on completing the feedback circle and co-evolving the recognition and generation mechanisms for linguistic, social and emotional expression. A critical motto of the research team is "one man's noise is another man's signal" as we address communicative behaviour as a coherent whole and broaden our scope from text to speech, gesture and emotion, and generalize from text interfaces to graphical, speech and brain control interfaces, address human factors relating to cognitive and perceptual load, and conscious and unconscious aspects of language, behaviour and awareness.

This technology started to come together for the first in the MAGICIAN entry in the MAGIC Robotics Grand Challenge, as we sought to allow one or two operators to control a whole fleet of robots, and get only the information needed only when it was needed.

Prof. David M W Powers is Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Flinders University, and has research interests in the area of Language and Learning Technology. His specific research framework takes Language, Logic and Learning as the cornerstones for a broad Cognitive Science perspective on Artificial Intelligence and its practical applications. Prof. Powers is known as a pioneer in the area of Natural Language Learning, Unsupervised Learning and Evaluation of Learning, and was Founding President of ACL SIGNLL, as well as initiating the CoNLLconference. His previous positions include Telecom Paris, University of Tilburg, University of Kaiserslautern, Macquarie University, as well as work with industry, and commercialization of research through several start up companies. Prof. Powers is also a Visiting Professor at the Beijing University of Technology, and is Editor-in-Chief of the new Springer journal Computational Cognitive Science and the book series Cognitive Science and Technology.

Prof. Powers was also a pioneer in Parallel Algorithms, Concurrent Logic Programming and Bioinformatics, and recently has been working on contracts and grants relating to Brain Computer Computer Interface, Cognitive Neuroscience, Embodied Conversational Agents, Educational Technology, Robot Teaming, Human Factors and Human Computer Interface, some of which involve international collaboration with countries such as China, Germany and the US. He is author of a well known monograph on Machine Learning of Natural Language (Springer 1989) as well as around 200 publications including several patents. Dr Powers is also an advisory board member for multiple companies and has developed several technologies that are being exploited as start-up companies or under license to a major company (including YourAmigo and Clipsal Homespeak). He is a member of several professional societies, and a senior member of IEEE.

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Department of Computer Science, Hong Kong Baptist University
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