Professor Tony Prescott

MA, MSc, PhD, CPsychol FBPsS

Department of Computer Science

Professor of Cognitive Robotics

Director of Sheffield 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
Department of Computer Science
Regent Court (DCS)
211 Portobello
S1 4DP

I am a Professor of Cognitive Robotics at the University of Sheffield and Director of Sheffield Robotics an inter-disciplinary research institute across both Universities in Sheffield. I maintain profiles on ResearchGate and Linkedin, and a Youtube Channel with links to online interviews, talks and movies about our robots and research.

In addition to his my output I have authored a number of 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

  • 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



  • Whelan MT, Prescott TJ & Vasilaki E (2021) A Robotic Model of Hippocampal Reverse Replay for Reinforcement Learning, arXiv. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Moulin-Frier C, Fischer T, Petit M, Pointeau G, Puigbo J-Y, Pattacini U, Low SC, Camilleri D, Nguyen P, Hoffmann M , Chang HJ et al (2017) DAC-h3: A Proactive Robot Cognitive Architecture to Acquire and Express Knowledge About the World and the Self, arXiv. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Cope AJ, Chambers JM, Prescott TJ & Gurney KN (2017) Basal Ganglia Control of Reflexive Saccades: A Computational Model Integrating Physiology Anatomy and Behaviour, bioRxiv. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Fernando S, Moore RK, Cameron D, Collins EC, Millings A, Sharkey AJ & Prescott TJ (2016) Automatic recognition of child speech for robotic applications in noisy environments, arXiv. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Cameron D, Fernando S, Collins E, Millings A, Moore R, Sharkey A & Prescott T (2016) Impact of robot responsiveness and adult involvement on children's social behaviours in human-robot interaction, arXiv. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Human Brain Project: EU Future Emerging Technologies Flagship. T.J. Prescott (Sheffield PI): The Human Brain Project (2016-).  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

  • 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-
  • 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-
  • 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)
2018 Highlights & Invited Talks

2018 Highlights

  • The Handbook of Living Machines, co-edited with Paul Verschure, Nathan Lepora and Michael Szollosy, was published by the Oxford University Press in April. Part of the OUP’s influential Oxford Handbook series, the book’s 65 contributed chapters provide a comprehensive introduction to research in biomimetic and biohybrid systems.
  • I am grateful to Michael Gazzaniga and Scott Grafton, from the Sage Centre for the Study of Mind at UC Santa Barbara, for hosting me for a 3-month Distinguished Fellow appointment in the summer of 2018, and to the University of Sheffield for granting me study leave for the period.
  • While in California I also visited Leah Krubitzer’s lab at UC Davis, where we co-wrote a review The Combinatorial Creature for Trends in Neurosciences on the evolution and development of mammalian cortex.
  • Our spin-out company Consequential Robotics released a new version of our unique brain-based animal-like robot.  The MiRo-e is intended for use in education and therapy and the robot is set to be a key part of our new robotics teaching in the Department of Computer Science at Sheffield University.
  • The Cyberselves Roadshow, co-organised with Michael Szollosy and Daniel Camilleri, and supported by the AHRC Cyberselves project, made appearances at Bluedot Festival, Cheltenham Science Festival, London Tech Week (3 events), FutureFest, Manchester Science Festival and Sheffield Festival of Mind, reaching an audience of more than 20,000 people.  This video shows us meeting Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at London Futurefest.
  • With colleagues I co-organised the 7th International Conference on Living Machines in Paris, and the 11th edition of the Barcelona Summer School on Brain, Cognition and Technology.
  • As part of our activities for the EU FET Flagship Human Brain Project we organised the first HBP Innovation Forum at the London Science Museum. Thanks for everyone who visited our exhibits or attended our events.

2018 Invited Talks