James Kennedy

Research Scientist at Disney Research

AI/Embodied Characters

In 2018, I moved to Disney Research Los Angeles to work on AI and embodied characters. Check back for updates!

Language-Based Interactions

At Disney Research Pittsburgh, I contributed to an architecture to engage in social chat and task-based language interactions. This work was conducted with both children and adults. It hinged on using Amazon Mechanical Turk as a means of automating dialog graph growth. We used the architecture to explore generalization mechanisms, dialog graph traversal strategies, and learning to express personality. All of this work was conducted under the guidance of Jill Lehman and with the support of a fantastic team of PostDocs and Interns.

Social Robots in Education

My PhD at Plymouth University, U.K. focused on the use of social robots in education. I concentrated primarily on the use of nonverbal social signals and immediacy as means to manipulate interactions and model social behaviour. Along with other international experts, we wrote a review paper for Science Robotics. This was also the topic of my PhD thesis. From this work, I helped to write the successful proposal for the EU H2020 L2TOR project (3.043M EUR total budget). I subsequently contributed publications and deliverables to the project. Here is my interview with FastCoexist prior to the project launch.

Social Robots in Therapy

Whilst completing my PhD, I worked on the DREAM project, which sought to test the clinical efficacy of using robots in therapy for children with ASD. I developed aspects of the cognitive controller, which has been made public on the DREAM github repository, and wrote corresponding deliverables. I also developed games for the interaction scenarios (category and pattern games) and modified a graphical tool to generate YARP applications for the whole system. I was interviewed by EvoNews as part of the build-up for the start of the clinical trial.

Social Robots in Healthcare

During my PhD I collaborated with the ALIZ-E project. The project focussed on creating interactions between children and robots over increaingly longer timescales. As part of the project, social robots were used in hospitals to help children with diabetes. As part of this project, I developed a 'Sandtray' game and software to generate stats from ANVIL video annotation, as well as contributing a number of publications.