30.10.16 - 04.11.16, Seminar 16442

Vocal Interactivity in-and-between Humans, Animals and Robots (VIHAR)

The following text appeared on our web pages prior to the seminar, and was included as part of the invitation.


Almost all animals exploit vocal signals for a range of ecologically-motivated purposes: from detecting predators/prey and marking territory, to expressing emotions, establishing social relations and sharing information. Whether it’s a bird raising an alarm, a whale calling to potential partners, a dog responding to human commands, a parent reading a story with a child, or a businessperson accessing stock prices using Siri on an iPhone, vocalisation provides a valuable communications channel through which behaviour may be coordinated and controlled, and information may be distributed and acquired. Indeed, the ubiquity of vocal interaction has led to research across an extremely diverse array of fields, from assessing animal welfare, to understanding the precursors of human language, to developing voice-based human-machine interaction.

Clearly, there is potential for cross-fertilisation between disciplines; for example, using robots to investigate contemporary theories of language grounding, using machine learning to analyse different habitats or adding vocal expressivity to the next generation of autonomous social agents. However, many opportunities remain unexplored, not least due to the lack of a suitable forum.

The aim of this seminar is to provide a unique and timely opportunity to bring together scientists and engineers from different fields to share theoretical insights, best practices, tools and methodologies, to identify common principles underpinning vocal behaviour, to enumerate open research questions, and to explore the potential for new collaborations and technologies, with a view to accelerating progress in all these areas.