The Joking Computer
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Other Computational Linguistics projects

baby in intensive care


Premature babies often need to spend a lot of time in hospital before then can go home. Researchers in Aberdeen and Edinburgh are building a computer system which takes in medical information about the baby, and summarises it for doctors and nurses (so they can look after the baby better), and also parents and relatives (so they know what is happening to the baby). This system includes an "artificial intelligence" component that analyses the baby's data to determine the baby's condition, and a computational linguistics component that expresses this analysis in English.

(BabyTalk website)

How was school today...?

It's difficult enough to remember everything that happened during the day. But what if you also have a disability that means you cannot speak? That makes it very hard to tell your story. Researchers in Aberdeen and Dundee have built a computer system that can tell what a child has been doing during the school day, using sensors and a device like a satnav. The system uses the sensor data and artificial intelligence software to create a story. The child can then use the computer to speak this story to friends or relatives.

("How was school today" website)

child using system

salesman and customer


In the NECA project, short cartoon films were produced entirely by a computer. In these films, a car salesman and a customer are talking with each other. To make a film, the computer needs information of course: it needs to know the technical specs of the car, and it needs to know what the salesman and the customer are like (whether they are rude or polite, for example, and how much money the customer has). Based on this information, the computer invents all the action: the words that are spoken by the two people in the film, but also their intonation, and even their gestures. Language generation lies at the heart of the computer's work. The films produced are not as nice to watch as the ones you see in the cinema ... but they are much cheaper!


Road maintenance teams need up to date and accurate information on which roads need to be gritted and when. Researchers in Aberdeen together with Aerospace & Marine International have developed a system that provides this information. Traditional weather forecasting produces data in the form of tables and graphs, which humans then have to translate into English. The RoadSafe system takes these tables and graphs and uses Computational Linguistics to create a simple draft text summary for the forecaster. This speeds up the delivery of crucial weather information and eliminates ambiguities brought about by individual writing styles.

Road gritting

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