Research Internship – Data science/Machine Learning

This post aims to describe my experiences from my three-month research internship at Toshiba Research Labs, Bristol, UK and the project I have been working on (September – December 2015).

I remember the day I first went there for my interview. The building was between a wonderful small square park and a river, and it was just 5 minutes walk from the city centre. But this was not the only thing I really liked. Working there I realised the importance of the culture in a firm. I appreciated the importance of collaboration, brainstorming and creativity. It was an academia-like environment; friendly, down-to-earth people with lots of ideas and knowledge on a variety of subjects. Everyone was approachable and you could discuss with them about anything.  I could communicate with colleagues effectively without having to worry about business formalities.

The project I worked on was intriguing. That was the main reason I applied for this research internship in the first place. It combined my academic interest on Machine Learning and my personal interest on human wellbeing.  In short, the project was about Mood Recognition ar Work using Wearable devices. In other words, understand, learn and attempt to predict someone’s mood (happiness/sadness/anger/stress/boredom/tiredness/excitrment/calmness) using just a wearable device (could be a smart wristband, a chest sensor or anything that is able to capture vital signs). Sounds impossible right? How can you predict such a complicated thing as human emotions? We, as humans, are not able to understand our mood. For example, how would you say you feel right now? Happy, Sad? Ok? This is indicative of the complexity of the problem we were facing. However, we wanted to do unscripted experiments, meaning we did not want to induce any emotions to the participants of our study. We rather wanted them to wear a smart device amd log on their mood in 2-hour intervals while they were still in work as accurate as they could. Surprisingly, at least for me, there was variation in their responses in general. Some higher, some lower but all of them varied. That was encouraging.

We had to study the literature, do some research to answer the following question: How could we extract meaningful features from vital signs and accelerometer signals that will have predictive capabilities in terms of emotions? After some digging around, we found the relevant literature. It was not new concept. There were studies both in Medical literature and in Computer Science, associating heart rate with stress and skin temperature with fatigue. We wanted to take this further. We wanted to check whether a combination of all these could have a more powerful predictive ability. Intuitively, think about the times you felt stressed. Your heart might pumps faster, but sometimes your foot or hand might be shaking as well. These could be captured by the accelerometer and together could be used as an additional indicator stressful situation.

We ended up with hundreds of features, and tested a number of basic machine learning techniques, such as Decision Trees and SVMs.

Our results were good enough, comparable to those in literature. Thus, we decided to publish our findings in the PerCom 2016 conference proceedings (WristSense Workshop)(http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7457166/).

Further, a number of ideas for patents were discussed and exciting new venues for potential work was drawn.

Overall, I would recommend an internship during a PhD programme as it is a very rewarding experience.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the employees, managers, directors there for the unique experience and their confidence in me.

AAMAS (Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems) 2015 Conference

I recently have had the opportunity to attend one of the most well-known and prestigious conferences in the area of Artificial Intelligence and Agents more specifically. The conference this year took place in the Congress Centre in Constantinople.

For me, it was the first conference ever I attended and I have to admit it was a wonderful experience overall. It was also the first time that I gave a talk in front of so many people, experts in the field! I was a bit shaky and nervous but everything went as planned.

My talk was allocated in the Applications session on Wednesday evening on the 6th of May 2015. I was at the conference centre early on to watch other talks. In particular, I was in Bio-inspired Approaches session. in my opinion, the very first talk was the best one in this session as the speaker got into the trouble of explaining in layman’s terms the important bits and pieces of the talk. Second on my list would be the Firefly-Inspired Synchronization in Swarms which I believe was an important concept. Specifically, it was about the way fireflies synchronize their flashing without ever explicitly communicating with each other. As the speaker noted, it is kind of the same with women’s menstrual cycle.

Other talks that got my attention was HAC-ER presented in my session (Applications) which was about a big project, joint paper among three universities (Southampton, Oxford, Nottingham) which was about enabling authorities or first responders to take better action after a major disastrous scenario like earthquake.

Beside attending friends’ talks I had the opportunity to discuss for a while with a guy working in a related area as me in the poster session. Hopefully, a collaboration can come out of this.

All in all, I hope that I will get lots of opportunities like this in the future.

AAMAS15