A University of Glasgow computing scientist is setting out to develop smarter, more helpful virtual personal assistants with the support of a prestigious new fellowship.
Dr Jeff Dalton, of the School of Computing Science, is one of 15 researchers named today as a recipient of the Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships, named after AI pioneer Alan Turing.
The Fellowships are supported by a £20 million government investment, being delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to lead innovative and creative AI research with transformative impact.
Over the next five years, Dr Dalton will work on new forms of conversational artificial intelligence to improve the capabilities of voice-based virtual personal assistants.
The current generation of virtual assistants, like Alexa and Siri, can perform basic single-step tasks like answering a question, setting a timer, controlling televisions or playing music.
Dr Dalton and his team at the University’s GRILL Lab are setting out to create a virtual assistant capable of collaborating with users to perform much more complex, multi-stage tasks through long-running, more natural conversations.
Dr Dalton said: "Being awarded the Turing AI Acceleration Fellowship is an incredible honour. We are very excited by the opportunity to accelerate progress on the next generation of virtual assistants that will transform our economy and society.
"This award is key in building a world-leading research group in Scotland with state-of-the-art deep-learning hardware for conversational AI that will enable us to perform large-scale experiments on real-world datasets to maximize impact.
"Our goal is to democratize the emerging ’voice web’ by enabling non-experts to rapidly develop assistants using open-source technology. Our research will support the creation of a new generation of open assistants applicable to diverse sectors. The fellowship will accelerate our research using large-scale machine learning models to create the next generation of assistants capable of deeper language understanding and more transparent reasoning."
The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships are part of the investment in Turing AI Fellowships, which was announced in the 2018 Budget following the government’s review of the UK AI industry.
Five fellowships have previously been awarded and the Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships call is in progress. These fellowships are part of a major government investment in AI skills and research which also includes 16 UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training in AI announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Turing AI Fellowships are delivered through UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in partnership with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, Office for AI and the Alan Turing Institute.
EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said: "The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will support some of our leading researchers to progress their careers and develop ground-breaking AI technologies with societal impact.
"By enhancing collaboration between academia and industry and accelerating these transformative technologies these Fellowships will help to maintain and build on the UK’s position as a world leader in AI.