Tony Belpaeme is Professor at Ghent University and Professor of Cognitive Systems and Robotics at Plymouth University. He is a member of IDLab – imec at Ghent and is associated with the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems at Plymouth. His research interests include social systems, cognitive robotics and artificial intelligence in general.

Until April 2005 he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Flemish fund for scientific research (FWO Vlaanderen) and was affiliated with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, directed by Luc Steels, at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He held a guest professorship at the same university, where he taught introductory artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.

As soon as we give a robot two eyes and a mouth, we just can’t help treating that robot as human.

In 2012 Tony’s work was named as one of “ten life-changing ideas under research at UK universities” by Research Councils UK, and in 2014 his work was lauded as one of “20 new ideas from the UK that will change the world“. Recently this work has led to a spin-off company (Syntheligence) and to the uptake of this research in clinical practice, in which robots are used to complement the support and education of hospitalized children.

Starting from the premise that intelligence is rooted in social interaction, Tony and his team try to further the science and technology behind artificial intelligence and social robots. This results in a spectrum of results, from theoretical insights to practical applications.

From hospitals, through to the home and the classroom, Tony sees a bright future where robots can help young children learn, stay healthy and provide care support. For several years now his work has focused on the therapeutic benefits of looking at child-robot interactions. Work that started in the research laboratories around Europe is now being taken up by commercial organizations keen to establish a “first to market” presence in these developing application areas – that potentially – have large commercial benefits alongside significant medical ones.

Tony tells you everything about the interesting and extremely varied world of social robots, from the use of robots delivering therapeutic interventions to the possibilities a friendly classroom robot has to offer.

Tony Belpaeme: The power of robots with a face - TED Talk

In his talk Professor Belpaeme describes the awesome power of how humans can project personality onto inanimate objects. Tony shows us how by harnessing this aspect of human nature we may be able to do incredible things with the robots of the future.