Facial recognition technology aims to detect emotional state in pigs

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Featured researcher: Professor Melvyn Smith

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology is being used in an attempt to detect different emotional states in pigs.

Machine vision experts at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have teamed up with animal behaviourists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Edinburgh for the study, which it is hoped will lead to a tool that can monitor individual animals’ faces and alert farmers to any health and welfare problems.

Pigs are highly expressive and SRUC research has previously shown they can signal their intentions to other pigs using different facial expressions. There is also evidence of different expressions when they are in pain or under stress.

At SRUC’s Pig Research Centre in Midlothian, scientists are capturing 3D and 2D facial images of the breeding sow population under various, typical commercial situations that are likely to result in different emotional states. For example, sows can experience lameness and could show different facial expressions relating to pain before and after being given pain relief. Detecting positive emotional state is more novel but sows are highly food motivated and appear calm and content when satiated. They hope this mood could be reflected in sows facial expressions.

Images are then processed at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, where various state-of-the-art machine learning techniques are being developed to automatically identify different emotions conveyed by particular facial expressions. After validating these techniques, the team will develop the technology for on-farm use with commercial partners where individual sows in large herds will be monitored continuously.

Professor Melvyn Smith from UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “Machine vision technology offers the potential to realise a low-cost, non-intrusive and practical means to biometrically identify individual animals on the farm. Our work has already demonstrated a 97% accuracy at facial recognition in pigs. Our next step will be, for the first time, to explore the potential for using machine vision to automatically recognise facial expressions that are linked with core emotion states, such as happiness or distress, in the identified pigs.”

Dr Emma Baxter from SRUC said: “Early identification of pig health issues gives farmers the potential to improve animal wellbeing by tackling any problems quickly and implementing tailored treatment for individuals. This will reduce production costs by preventing impact of health issues on performance.

“By focussing on the pig’s face, we hope to deliver a truly animal-centric welfare assessment technique, where the animal can “tell” us how it feels about its own individual experiences and environment. This allows insight into both short-term emotional reactions and long-term individual ‘moods’ of animals under our care.”

The study, which is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is also being supported by industry stakeholders JSR Genetics Ltd and Garth Pig Practice as well as precision livestock specialists Agsenze.

Featured researcher: Professor Melvyn Smith

Melvyn L. Smith is Professor of Machine Vision and Director of the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) at UWE Bristol. He is also a Chartered Engineer and an active member of the IET.  

Email: Melvyn.Smith@uwe.ac.uk Phone: +4411732 86358

Notes and links for editors:
https://bbsrc.ukri.org/research/

Relevant papers:

Hansen, M.F., Smith, M.L., Smith, L.N., Salter, M.G., Baxter, E.M., Farish, M. and Grieve, B., 2018. Towards on-farm pig face recognition using convolutional neural networks. Computers in Industry, 98, pp.145-152.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166361517304992

Camerlink, I., Coulange, E., Farish, M., Baxter, E.M. and Turner, S.P., 2018. Facial expression as a potential measure of both intent and emotion. Scientific reports, 8(1), p.17602.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35905-3

Knowledge Transfer Partnership with ExtraCare Charitable Trust introduces smart technologies to retirement villages

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In April 2018, UWE Bristol announced a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with ExtraCare Charitable Trust to help incorporate innovative technologies into its properties for the benefit of residents.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s recently opened ‘Stoke Gifford Village’ in Frenchay is home to an innovation apartment which showcases the use of devices such as smart kettles, a body dryer, remote-controlled blinds, video doorbells, integrated with intelligent sensing, to develop and demonstrate practical smart solutions to support active ageing.

The innovation apartment, next to UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus, allows ExtraCare Charitable Trust and the KTP team to trial the technology and gather data on how users interact with the systems.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s Executive Director of Marketing and Innovation Henriette Lyttle, said, “Our vision is to enable better lives for older people and to create sustainable communities that provide homes older people want and lifestyles they can enjoy. This KTP is an opportunity to pioneer the integration of technologies into our retirement villages in order to increase quality of life and prolong independent living.”

Prof Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor of Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, part of UWE Bristol, who is the academic supervisor leading the KTP commented:

“We are privileged to be working with ExtraCare Charitable Trust and to have the opportunity of testing, trialling and co-designing with residents and carers. This project will enable us to make a positive impact on supporting people as they age.”

ExtraCare Charitable Trust is the UK’s leading not-for-profit developer of housing for over 55s. Since 1988, they’ve operated retirement villages and smaller housing developments.

Find out more about KTPs here.

This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme (KTP).  KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.  This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

National Apprenticeship Week

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UWE Bristol continues to establish itself as a leading degree apprenticeship provider in the region with increasing of number of programmes being offered. More and more employers are approaching us asking for advice and guidance on how to use their levy to support recruitment, and smaller companies are enquiring about progression opportunities for their staff through apprenticeships at degree and master’s level through the funding available.

As we’ve been celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, why don’t you listen to some of our apprentices and employers talk about their experience and the benefits of upskilling with degree apprenticeships?

We offer degree apprenticeships in a broad range of subject areas including business and management, engineering, health and sciences, IT and digital technology and surveying.

For a list of degree apprenticeships on offer at UWE Bristol visit www.uwe.ac.uk/degreeapprenticeships h

Vice Chancellors Interdisciplinary Research Challenge Fund Selection Event

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On Monday 25 February, researchers came from across UWE Bristol to present their project ideas as part of the Vice Chancellors Interdisciplinary Research Challenge Fund. This diverse group covered a variety of areas, from the emerging markets in breast milk to reimagining dead celebrities in film, and AI training bots for healthcare professionals.

The Vice Chancellors Interdisciplinary Research Challenge Fund is an opportunity for UWE researchers to seek up to £25,000 funding to develop exciting new research projects with colleagues working in different fields from across this university.

The fund had 83 applications in January, of which 15 were invited to pitch their project for 5 minutes at the event, in the hope of being successful for the competitive Challenge Fund.

Attendees at the event were asked to help decide which projects they thought should be funded, with Research, Strategy and Implementation Group (RSIG) making the final decision.

11 of 15 projects were successful on the day. Information on the 11 successful projects can be found below.

The event was a great opportunity to gain an insight into the quality and breadth of research projects undertaken across UWE Bristol.

Thank you to all who submitted to the fund.

Successful projects:

Using Big Data in Critical Care across all Ages to Improve Clinical Outcome

Researchers: Lyvonne Tume and Elias Pimenidis
This feasibility study will use AI techniques to analyse data from patients in intensive care, focusing on sedation, nutrition and ventilation, to improve treatment.

High Performance Bio-inspired topologically optimized and efficient composite structures

Researchers: Mohammad Fotouhi and David Attwood
By investigating and recreating materials found in the natural world, including shells and Mayfly wings, this project will demonstrate qualities which could solve design problems in aerospace and automotives.

Virtual Maggie: technological opportunities and ethical dilemmas in the development of simulated performers for feature films and television

Researchers: Dominic Lees, Marcus Keppel-Palmer and Thomas Bashford-Rogers
The research team will explore technological advances in visual effects (VFX) which can bring back to life a deceased actor to cast them in a new production, researchers will consider challenges this raises creatively, technologically, ethically and legally.

Printing the Muses. Reimaging digital musical instruments through printing

Researchers: Benedict Gaster and Carinna Parramen
This project will re-imagine musical interfaces through printing tactile surfaces in collaboration with practitioners, to be shared as an open resource on the Internet of Musical Things (IoMT).

Drinking water and airborne microplastics; an unquantified health risk

Researchers: Ben Williams, Stephanie Sargeant, Lisa Mol, Tim Cox, Darren Reynolds, Enda Hayes, Gillian Clayton and Kathryn Lamb-Riddell
As one of the larger research teams that pitched for funding, this project will develop a standardised methodology for collecting and evaluating microplastics in drinking water and the air, in order to develop policy around ‘safe’ limits.

From Utility to Social Entity Exploring emotive interaction between AI training bots and health care professionals

Researchers: Rik Lander, Cristina Costa, Jun Hong, Luke Rudge and Gary Christopher
Experimenting with two versions of an AI training bot, this project aimed at healthcare professionals, will look to see how emotions triggered by user interactions with a ‘relatable’ entity enhance learning.

Human Centred Design, AI & Legal Services

Researchers: Dagmar Steffens, Jo Hare and Paul Matthews
By exploring the opportunities that LegalTech software can offer Bristol’s legal sector, this research aims to create a demonstrator to see how companies can integrate next generation services into their business models.

Nurture Commodified: Women as Workers & Women as Carers

Researchers: Sally Dowling, Michal Nahman and Susan Newman
Focusing on the trade between Bangalore and Australia, this study into commercial and non-commercial breastmilk provision aims to understand the impact on the women involved.

An investigation into the effects of cognitively demanding tasks on eye saccade patterns in the context of the early detection of neurodegenerative disease

Researchers: Wenhao Zhang, Lili Tao, Melvyn Smith, Myra Conway and Nancy Zook
With the intention of aiding early diagnosis which could prevent or reduce the impact of dementia with the help of machine vision and learning, the researchers are aiming to develop and test an eye imaging system to track eye movement patterns.

Waste = Resource Bioelectrochemical filters for clean electricity and resource recovery as fertiliser

Researchers: Iwona Gajda, Jiseon You, Tosin Obata, Robin Thorn and Neil Willey
This research project will take urine and transform it through the use of a microbial fuel cell into catholyte, a liquid which could potentially be used as an herbicide/fertiliser in hydroponics.

Immersive inquiry for architectural site analysis of acoustic ecology

Researchers: Luke Reed and Merate Barakat    
By using virtual reality to prototype a system, this project will help architects to understand the acoustic considerations of a site when in the early stages of design.  

Professional Development Awards

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UWE Bristol Professional Development Awards (PDA) offers you the opportunity to build your own degree using previous qualifications and experience, as well as new learning. With a focus on work-based learning, the flexible structure allows you to tailor your course to match your professional development.

About the awards

The Professional Development Awards are based on credit accumulation and transfer. You can build credit through a UWE Bristol Work-based Learning module, accredited learning and taught modules to gain a UWE Bristol qualification with the title of Professional Development Awards.

Previous learning and credits gained from other academic institutions that have already been awarded (if they can be mapped against the programme learning outcomes) can also be used within the award. You can also import UWE Bristol credit to count towards your target award.

The PDA is flexible, self-directed learning through which you can negotiate your own programme of study, according to your individual learning requirements and professional goals. Our learners come from different professional backgrounds, with a majority of them in particular from the health and social care fields.

Find out more about how to build your own qualification.

Build your own qualification

You play an active part in designing your course content, enabling you to create a programme of study which is relevant to your current work role and future career aspirations.

The Professional Development Awards programme enables you to create a bespoke course where you can build credit to gain an award from a 60-credit certificate (both undergraduate and postgraduate), Certificate of Higher Education, Foundation Degree and other undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

See the PDA qualifications available for a full breakdown of the awards.

Benefits for employers

The Professional Development Awards programme can be used to develop a highly skilled workforce which will help to keep your business ahead of the competition.

We will work with your organisation to identify learning needs of your employees and shape a bespoke programme of learning to suit your business ambitions.

For more information and to find out how to apply please see the website.

Scale Up For Growth (S4G): Scale up support for your business

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Scale Up For Growth (S4G) is a new programme offering grant funding and workshops to businesses in the West of England with ambitions to grow, expand and scale. £800,000 of funding is available with grants from £10,000 to £40,000 for businesses in the West of England that are looking to expand and scale. They can be used to fund 37.5% of growth projects or initiatives for businesses.

Deadline for grant applications: Midday, Thursday 7 March 2019

The grant scheme is open to businesses in any sector that want to grow and scale up their business. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises and based in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire.   

Businesses can also register to attend Business Growth Workshops – further information can be found on our website.   

The S4G programme is delivered by UWE Bristol, NatWest and Foot Anstey. S4G offers eligible businesses access to grants, training and expert support to help achieve their full potential, create jobs and overcome barriers to growth.

Register today www.scaleup4growth.co.uk

Invest – Connect – Explore 2019

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Following on from a successful inaugural event in 2018, the University Enterprise Zone is delighted to announce Invest, Connect, Explore (ICE) 2019.

ICE 2019 offers you the chance to meet the ambitious businesses based in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone and hear about the support available to growing and innovative businesses across the region.

ICE 2019 will take place on Wednesday 8 May from 16:00 – 19:00 in the University Enterprise Zone, Frenchay Campus.

You can discover how you and your organisations can invest, connect and explore partnerships and collaboration.

UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) offers innovation and business development to entrepreneurs, innovators and high-tech businesses. It also provides support, incubation and scale-up space for them to flourish. Through access to modern facilities, expert knowledge and collaboration, we make the out of reach, reachable.

To register for this exciting event complete this registration form

For further information, please email UEZEvents@uwe.ac.uk

£6.5m project aims to drive digital innovation in the South West

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A project worth £6.5million is being launched across the South West to expand the use of digital technologies throughout the region’s creative, health and manufacturing sectors.

The new Creative Technology Network will bring together universities and industrial partners, pooling their research and innovation expertise to develop cutting-edge practices, techniques and products in creative digital technologies.

Supported by a grant from RESEARCH ENGLAND, and led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), the three-year project is a partnership with Watershed in Bristol, Kaleider in Exeter, Bath Spa University, the University of Plymouth and Falmouth University.

UWE Bristol Professor Jon Dovey is leading the project for the DCRC

As new technology, including automation and big data, raises new challenges and opportunities for businesses, this partnership is designed to respond to industry needs across the health and manufacturing sectors and the creative industries, driving productivity and resilience.

The grant is part of RESEARCH ENGLAND’s Connecting Capabilities Fund, which supports university collaboration and encourages commercialisation of products made through partnerships with industry. The funding will kick-start the project, which begins in April.

Professor Martin Boddy, who is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement at UWE Bristol, said, “We are immensely proud to be taking the lead on this exciting project which builds on UWE Bristol’s vision to work with partners to enhance innovation across the region and nationally. This new network will stimulate the regional economy and will undoubtedly lead to new products and new ways of working, all thanks to shared research experience and technical expertise.”

Professor Jon Dovey, who is Professor of Screen Media at the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries, and Education at UWE Bristol and leading the project for the Digital Cultures Research Centre (DCRC) said, “This project will bring together the best and the brightest researchers in creative arts, technology and design to work with companies old and new to show what new kinds of value can be unlocked by the application of creative technologies.

“We are going to be working with immersive media, processes of automation and the new availability of big data to support business to find new ways of working with their customers and our citizens. Watch this space for the amazing new products and services we invent in the next three years.”

 

Passenger-carrying drones among us by 2030, says UWE Bristol expert

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Drone technology is in its infancy but in the not-too-distant future we are likely to see unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) perform actions like paint or clean, with the ability to visualise very small items like a hairline fracture in a building structure. This is according to Dr Steve Wright, who is Associate Professor in Aerospace Engineering at UWE Bristol and a drone expert. He also predicts that we could see freight and even passenger-carrying drones by 2030.

But there are still many challenges to overcome before these autonomous aircraft are reliable and trustworthy enough to be an integral part of our society, says Steve. In fact, he believes the technology needs to be improved by a factor of one million before it is safe enough.

The current big challenge is to programme a drone to navigate and fly autonomously through a cluttered environment, like a city, in a safe way, and we are still a long way off.

The MAAXX (Micro Aero Autonomous Extremes Europe) drone racing contest that Steve organises is the second iteration of Europe’s only indoor drone flying contest. The two-day UWE Bristol event on 23-24 March takes place in the University’s exhibition centre and sees several teams programme their UAVs to fly unaided around a designated track, with a hackathon for budding coders to programme a ‘house’ drone provided by the organisers.

As well as a useful day for industry to meet their peers, and a fun day for families (on the second day only), the event also contributes to driving forward the technology. Given they are part of a contest, the teams push drone development to their limits by finding solutions to UAVs veering off course, or not stopping in time.

Previous to his work in academia, Steve worked in the aerospace industry for over two decades. “I look at drones with the eye of someone who for 25 years has been helping to build systems in conventional aircraft and these are exciting times for UAV development.”

He explains that we are at the exact point in history as with conventional aircraft development in 1918 – exactly 100 years ago. Using the comparison, he says: “We are at the equivalent point in time where we know how the Wright Brothers were able to fly their plane, and have already built a Sopwith Camel [a war plane used in the First World War]. We can glimpse what a spitfire looks like, but still have no idea what aircraft will look like in 30 or 40 years.” As a result, we have a clean slate with UAVs, he adds, and still have so much to learn about and improve.

Interestingly, the technology is being developed from the bottom up, says Steve. “Some other similar technologies have been driven from the top down by large corporations, but this one is from the bottom up, by consumers, very much like the early days of the electronics operations.”

As for the future, says Steve, we are moving towards close-up imaging, whereby a drone will soon be able to detect minute structural faults on a bridge or building. We could also soon see drones that clean surfaces such as solar panels in the desert that become covered in sand.

Steve also predicts that as soon as 2030, we are likely to see drones carrying passengers as well as freight over short distances.

His biggest fear about the drone industry? “The trouble is that there are many people who know how to fly a drone and although they are often not reckless, many are unaware of the safety issues.  Those of us involved in the drone industry live in terror that somebody will cause a horrendous accident – this would shut us all down in a single afternoon.”

UK’s complex tax code and complacency leads to more tax avoidance – UWE Professor

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Nicholas Ryder, who is a Professor in Financial Crime at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) says the UK authorities’ ‘lacklustre’ approach to enforcing its financial crime provisions, and a highly complex tax code, has played a significant role in enabling individuals to avoid or evade tax.  Tax evasion expert Sam Bourton (who is an Associate Lecturer in Law at UWE Bristol), agrees that such complexity means a lot of money is siphoned from the City of London.

Once again documents revealing the tax activities of some of the rich and powerful have come to light in the media, after a whistleblower leaked 6.8m documents relating to Appleby, a firm that helps companies set up shop in low-tax jurisdictions. These ‘Paradise Papers’ (so-called because many tax havens are located on paradise-like islands) have led to a media storm, decrying the likes of F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and Apple because of their links to tax avoidance schemes through the firm. Tax avoidance involves by-passing payment of tax legally using loopholes to your advantage, while tax evasion means illegally evading paying tax.

“These schemes might not be a criminal offence per se,” says Ryder, “but ethically speaking, is it right for a multibillion pound company to be avoiding tax, when that money could go to funding a new hospital or a school?”

Ryder explains that a lot of jurisdictions, including the UK, have a flexible taxation system, as this can lead to more investment. It also possesses a highly complex tax code, which is one of the longest in the world. “You could argue that tax avoidance has been indirectly encouraged by government because it has such a complex legal framework that allows people to use loopholes,” says Ryder. “This also means that it’s often difficult to identify whether a business transaction constitutes tax avoidance or tax evasion,” he adds.

Bourton agrees, saying that there is often a connection between many of UK’s overseas territories (like the Cayman Islands or the British Virgin Islands) and London, and this benefits the City. “Often tax advisers set up structures offshore that interact with accounts in London,” says Bourton. She points out that, looking at the data from the Paradise Papers, the UK features towards the top of the list when you look at individuals and companies implicated in tax avoidance.

Both Bourton and Ryder agree that more transparency in tax transactions is needed. “I am concerned about the secrecy that still exists around these tax cases,” says Ryder, commenting on the Paradise Papers. “How do we know that organised criminal gangs are not using these offshore financial centres to hide their proceeds of crime? If they are doing this, they are in effect money laundering, and that’s where they could be prosecuted,” he adds. In this respect, he believes that the UK adopts what he calls a “lacklustre” approach to enforcing its financial crime provisions.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has drawn up and is still developing a set of guidelines to ensure transparency and exchange of information where tax is involved.  But although most jurisdictions have signed up to the OECD standards, implementing them is likely to take several years to complete.