SICSA Research Scholar funding supported PhD student, Andrew, to attend the SoRAIM Winter School in France this month.

By Andrew Blair

29 February 2024


My name is Andrew Blair, and I am a first year PhD Student in Computing Science at the University of
Glasgow. My research seeks to explore how we can facilitate human-robot interaction through
dialogue in public spaces. More specifically, I seek to overcome the limitations of speech recognition
in noisy environments, by using a combination of novel hardware and software techniques.
The SoRAIM Winter School was organised by the SPRING Horizon 2020 project. This is a consortium
of universities across Europe & partner countries working to develop an assistive robot to be
deployed within a hospital in France. The winter school seeks to cover the domain of Social Robotics
& Artificial Intelligence, and since both are key aspects of my research, I decided to apply for the
school and was accepted. The speakers included the researchers working as part of the SPRING
project as well as external invited academics. The plenary sessions were very closely aligned with my
research. Topics such as ‘Speaker Localization’ and ‘Autonomous Robots: From the lab into the wild’
were very informative, and seeing the difficulties faced when taking robots outside of a controlled
environment highlighted the wide range of factors that need to be considered when doing such

A poster session was held where I had the opportunity to present my preliminary work and to be
able to discuss it with my peers and academics alike. These discussions have inspired me to explore
new directions and resulted in potential collaborations with other researchers working in the same
area. I also had the opportunity to participate in two hands-on workshops on the final day; detailing
how to integrate LLMs into chatbots and speaker extraction from multi-person audio. Both of these
sessions were really useful as they solidified the theoretical knowledge we were given earlier in the

I would like to thank SICSA for supporting my attendance at the winter school. It has allowed me to
connect with not only leading researchers in my field but also fellow PhD students and early career
researchers, and these new relationships will help me in the future. I hope to take what I
have learned and put into use throughout the rest of my doctoral research.