Weird and Wonderful, 1st Place � A robot programmed with novel social intelligence algorithms performs a stand-up routine at London's Barbican Centre [Credit: Toby Harris]

Slideshow: EPSRC photography competition winners

A picture of a joke-telling robot that can tailor its stand-up routine in real time has won the EPSRC photography competition.

Comedy Lab: Human vs Robot, by Toby Harris, a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London’s Cognitive Science Research Group, was chosen as the overall winner from more than 250 entries featuring research in action, which were entered into EPSRC’s inaugural competition.

Harris said: “We're thrilled that our experiment pitting human stand-up comedians against a robot is inspiring others. This ground-breaking research is helping us to understand both what makes for a great performance and what makes for a compelling audience experience.

“We use new technologies to analyse people's moment-by-moment responses, so while teaching a robot stagecraft was fun, it was the ability to read and react to the audience that made it work.

“More than the creative industries are at stake here – by better understanding what happens between performers and audiences, we should gain new insights into the value of bringing students together for class, or workers to a conference table.”

The competition’s five categories were: Weird and Wonderful, Discovery, Equipment, Innovation, and People.

Among the science featured in the competition was the Rayleigh-Taylor instability shown in salt water as it accelerates into fresh water, the world’s only artificial self-righting shape the Gömböc, micro-scale vaccine mixing, cancer cells that resemble tropical islands seen from space, and mathematicians that appear to float.

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