Peter Wallis

Peter Wallis
Peter is founder and CTO at Prose Co Ltd. He has a long-standing interest in language and how computers might deal with it. His PhD (1995) was on semantics for search engines, which failed as a piece of engineering but raised several questions about the nature of quantitative evaluation as practiced. In the late 90's he was science lead on a very successful project doing Information Extraction (Message Understanding) for Health Intelligence. In 2001, after a sabbatical at the HCRC in Edinburgh, he lead the dialog engine component for a large project developing a virtual assistant for military command and control. Based on the notion of "dialog games" he championed the idea that dialog is situated action in a social space, and the use of a BDI architecture to balance reactive and deliberative behaviour. That is, the system's conversational partner can change his or her mind about goals, and the system needs to follow suit.

Peter moved to Sheffield NLP Group in 2004 to work with Yorick Wilks. He was involved with the writing of a successful EU FP6 bid for the Companions Project and with its unsuccessful predecessor. In the mean time Peter was co-organiser for a series of international workshops on why people swear at machines and authored a successful EPSRC proposal (CA4NLP - Mark Hepple) to look at what real linguists might tell us about machines and language. As the Companions project finished, Yorick left Sheffield and the Group's interest in dialog waned. Peter's last role at Sheffield was as PI on the EU FP7 SERA project -- Social Engagement with Robots and Agents -- which put talking robot rabbits in older peoples homes and collected 300 or so recordings of the interaction [Wallis, 2010]. At Manchester Metropolitan University his focus has been on dialog for automated telephone systems [Wallis et al'14a, Wallis'14(b)] but the barriers to entering that market are extensive and Prose Co is currently focusing on commercial applications for the Amazon Echo.