Professor Tony Prescott

MA, MSc, PhD, CPsychol FBPsS

School of Computer Science

Professor of Cognitive Robotics

Knowledge Exchange and Entrepreneurship Co-Lead

Tony Prescott headshot
Profile picture of Tony Prescott headshot
+44 114 222 6657

Full contact details

Professor Tony Prescott
School of Computer Science
Regent Court (DCS)
211 Portobello
S1 4DP

Tony Prescott is Professor of Cognitive Robotics at the University of Sheffield, UK, and the co-founder and former director of Sheffield Robotics, a cross-disciplinary research institute across both Universities in Sheffield.  He is also an active member of the Sheffield Neuroscience Institute.  He is a fellow of the British Psychological Society, was a Sage Centre for the Study of Mind Distinguished Fellow in 2018, and a finalist in the 2022 Ana Avatar competition for telepresence robotics.

Tony’s research mixes robotics and artificial intelligence with psychology, brain theory and philosophy and aims at answering questions about the human condition by creating synthetic entities with animal or human-like capacities such as perception, memory, emotion and sense of self.  His approach takes a posthuman perspective, examining the ever-deepening relationship between our species and the technologies we create. He also regularly speaks and writes about the societal and cultural impacts of future robotic, AI, virtual reality and telepresence technologies.

Tony has published over 240 articles and conference papers at the interface of robotics, AI, psychology, and neuroscience, and has received £10M in grant funding from UKRI, InnovateUK, the European Framework and Horizon Europe programmes and the Wellcome Trust. He is the co-creator of the award-winning animal-like robots Scratchbot, Shrewbot and MiRo-e, and the lead editor of The Scholarpedia of Touch, published by Springer, and of Living Machines: A Handbook of Research in Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems published by Oxford University Press.  He co-founded and co-chairs the annual international Living Machines conference.

Tony has co-founded two robotics spin-out companies, Consequential Robotics, developing education and assistive living technologies, and Bettering Our Worlds (BOW), who develop software that makes it easier to program robots.  He is also passionate about the use of robots in STEM education and founded the Skills and Education in Robotics and AI network. Tony’s research is regularly featured in online and print media and has been covered by the BBC One Show, BBC Breakfast, Tomorrow’s World Live, BBC Sunday Morning, Sky News and BBC Radio 4 Today, World at One, Costing the Earth, Inside Science and Material World. International coverage has included the Discovery Channel, Arte Channel, and CNN.

Tony maintains profiles on ResearchGate and Linkedin, and a Youtube Channel with links to online interviews, talks and movies about his robots and research.  He has authored several shorter pieces of general interest, about artificial intelligence and robotics, for the online magazine The Conversation.

  • MA Psychology (Edinburgh)
  • MSc Applied Artificial Intelligence (Aberdeen)
  • PhD Machine Learning (Sheffield)
  • CPsychol FBPsS.
Research interests

My research is within the areas of cognitive neuroscience, artificial intelligence and bio-inspired robotics. A particular focus is on the investigation of biomimetic and biohybrid systems: an example of the former would be an animal-like or humanoid robot, of the latter a human-machine interface.

Current research is directed towards:

  • social cognition for humanoid robots including the possibility synthetic autobiographical memory and of a robot "sense of self”;
  • active touch sensing for attention, orienting, and spatial memory;
  • assistive and companion robotic technologies;
  • haptic interfaces for sensory augmentation;
  • telepresence robotics, and
  • societal and ethical issues in technology.

Some of my research is done under the auspices of the Department's Adaptive Behaviour Research Group and the Active Touch Laboratory.



Edited books

  • Engel AK, Friston KJ & Kragic D (Eds.) (2016) The Pragmatic Turn. The MIT Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Prescott TJ, Ahissar E & Izhikevich E (Eds.) (2015) Scholarpedia of Touch. Atlantis Press. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • (Ed.) (2014) Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics): Preface.. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Prescott TJ, Lepora NF, Mura A & Verschure PFMJ (Eds.) (2012) Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems - First International Conference, Living Machines 2012, Barcelona, Spain, July 9-12, 2012. Proceedings. Springer. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Seth A, Prescott T & Bryson J (Eds.) (2011) Modelling Natural Action Selection. Cambridge Univ Pr. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Groß R, Alboul L, Melhuish C, Witkowski M, Prescott TJ & Penders J (Eds.) (2011) Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems - 12th Annual Conference, TAROS 2011, Sheffield, UK, August 31 - September 2, 2011. Proceedings. Springer. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Groß R, Alboul L, Melhuish C, Witkowski M, Prescott T & Penders J (Eds.) (2011) Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems. Springer. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers


Theses / Dissertations

  • Prescott TJ (1994) Explorations in Reinforcement and Model-based Learning. RIS download Bibtex download

Working papers

  • Fernando S, Moore RK, Cameron D, Collins EC, Millings A, Sharkey AJ & Prescott TJ () Automatic recognition of child speech for robotic applications in noisy environments. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download



  • Human Brain Project: EU Future Emerging Technologies Flagship. T.J. Prescott (Sheffield PI): The Human Brain Project (2016-2023).  Project value to Sheffield €774,000 (over four years).
  • EPSRC. T.J.Prescott (PI): SERAS: Skills and Education in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (March 2020 - Feb 2021). £35,500
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). T. J. Prescott (PI): Cyberselves in Immersive Technologies (2014-2015). Project value £50,000.
  • EU Framework 7 Cognitive and Robotics Systems. T. J. Prescott (PI): What You Say Is What You Did (WYSIWYD) (2014 - 2017). Total project value €3,500,000 (€575,000 to Sheffield).
  • EU Framework 7 Cognitive and Robotics Systems. T.J. Prescott (PI): Expressive Agents for Symbiotic Education and Learning (EASEL) (Nov 2013 - 2016). Total project value €2,910,000 (€595,000 to Sheffield).
  • UK Technology Strategy Board. T.J. Prescott (PI): IntelliTable (Sept 2013 -14). Total project value £100,000 (£27,000 to Sheffield).
  • EPSRC Capital for Great Technologies. T.J. Prescott (PI): Human-Machine Cooperation In Robotics And Autonomous (July 2013 -14). £1,000,000.
  • European Union Framework 7 Programme. T.J. Prescott (PI for Sheffield component): Convergent Science Network for Biomimetics and Neurotechnology (Mar 2013-2016). Total project value €950,000 (€172,711 to Sheffield).
  • Weizmann – UK Joint Research Programme. T.J. Prescott (PI): Development of motor-sensory strategies for vibrissal active touch (Oct 2012-2014). Total project value $100,000 ($50,000 to Sheffield).
  • EPSRC. T.J. Prescott (Co-Investigator): Bio-inspired Control of Electro-Active Polymers for Next Generation Soft Robots (Jan 2012-2015). Total project value £359,094 (~£170,000 to Sheffield).
  • EPSRC/UoS. T.J. Prescott (PI): A wearable active sensing device using tactile displays (Sept 2011-2012). £49,998.
  • European Union Framework 7 Programme. T.J. Prescott (PI for Sheffield component): CA-RoboCom: Coordination Action for the design and description of the FET Flagship candidate Robot Companions for Citizens (May 2011-2012). Total project value €1,500,000 (€90,000 to Sheffield).
  • European Union Framework 7 Programme. T.J. Prescott (PI for Sheffield component): Experimental Functional Android Assistant (EFAA) (Jan 2011-2014). Total project value €2,858,000 (€517,000 to Sheffield).
  • UoS Proof of Concept. T.J. Prescott (PI): Virtual Whiskers for Navigation in Hazardous Environments  (Nov 2010-May 2011). £10,000.
  • European Union Framework 7 Programme. T.J. Prescott (PI for Sheffield component): Convergent Science Network for Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems (Jan 2009-2012). Total project value €520,000 (€108,000) to Sheffield).
  • European Union Framework 7 ICT Project 215910. T. J. Prescott (Co-ordinator and PI): BIOmimetic Technology for vibrissal ACtive Touch (BIOTACT) (2008-). (Jan 2008-Dec 2011). Total project value €7.8M (~€1.4M European Union contribution to Sheffield).
  • European Union Framework 6 Cognitive Systems Project ST-027819-IP. T.J. Prescott (PI): Integration Cognition, Emotion, and Action (ICEA). (Jan 2006–Dec 2009). €8.08M (~€0.9M to Sheffield).
  • EPRSC EP/C516303/1. Collaboration between 5 UK Universities. K. Gurney (PI) and TJ. Prescott: REVERB: Reverse Engineering the VERtebrate Brain (April 2005-March 2010). £1.8M (~£0.7M to Sheffield).
  • EPRSC GR/S19639/01. Collaboration with Bristol Robotics Laborator. TJ. Prescott (PI): WhiskerBot: A Robot Whisker System Modelled on the Rat Mystacial Vibrissae (September 2003-August 2006). £430k (~£150k to Sheffield).
  • EPRSC GR/R95722/01 T. J. Prescott (PI), K. Gurney, P. Redgrave: Robot control using a model of central structures in the vertebrate brain (Sept 2002–August 2005). £161k.
Professional activities and memberships

Activities and Distinctions

  • Finalist in the 2022 Ana Avatar competition for telepresence robotics
  • University of Sheffield Principal Investigator for the European Union Horizon 2020 Human Brain Project, 2016–
  • Sage Centre for the Study of Mind Distinguished Fellow (2018)
  • Fellow of the British Psychological Society (FBPsS), 2011–
  • Co-founder of the University of Sheffield spin-out company Consequential Robotics, 2016–
  • Editor of Connection Science, 2014-2020
  • Co-founder of the "Living Machines" International Conference Series, 2012-
  • Co-organiser of the European Union FP7 Co-ordination Action Convergent Science Network for Biomimetics and Neurotechlog
  • Co-founder and Director of the Sheffield Robotics, 2011-2022
  • Partner in the "Robot Companions for Citizens" FET Flagship pilot project and leader of a working group on Societal Impacts and Ethical Issues in Robotics, 2011-12
  • Cofounder and co-organiser of the annual Barcelona Summer School on Cognitiion, Brain & Technology, 2008-
  • Co-ordinator of the EU FP7 BIOTACT project, 2008-12
  • Visiting Research Fellow at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, 2003-
  • Founder and co-director of the Adaptive Behaviour Research Group, 1996-
  • My research has been covered by the BBC One Show, Radio 4 Today Programme, Material World & Costing the Earth, Discovery Channel, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Observer, The Economist, Science Magazine, New Scientist, Focus Magazine and American Scientist.

Earlier Plenary and Invited Talks

  • Assistive and companion robot technologies. Technology and Dementia (AAIC 17 Satellite Meeting), London, 15th July 2018.
  • Through a glass, darkly; then face to robot face, Public Symposium in Honour of the Artist Jordan Wolfson at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, February 18th 2018.
  • Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences, 6th October 2016 (Invited talk)
  • Battle of Ideas, London Barbican Centre, 22nd October 2016 (Debate)
  • IEEE ICDL-EPIROB 2016, 22nd September 2016 (Plenary talk)
  • Tencent "Way to Evolve" Conference, November 2015 (Invited talk, live streamed)
  • Institute of Contemporary Art "Fear of Missing Out", 30th May 2015 (invited talk)
  • SPIE Biomimetics, San Diego, USA, March 2014 (Opening talk)
  • 'Socially-responsible research in Cognitive Systems: A no-win or a win-win'. EU Cognition III Annual Meeting, Brighton, UK, December 2013 (Plenary talk)
  • IEEE World Haptics, Daejeon, South Korea, April 2013 (Opening talk)
  • European Conference for Complex Systems, Warwick, 2009 (Opening talk)
Recent Articles

Click here for full and free access to our recent review article, courtesy of AAAS:

Prescott TJ & Wilson SP (2023) Understanding brain functional architecture through robotics. Science Robotics, 8(78)