Professor Tony Prescott

Tony Prescott pictureAddress:
F-08 The Pam Livesidge Building,
The University of Sheffield,
Newcaste Street,
Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
Tel: (+44) 0114 222 66657 (but email is better)
Twitter: @tonyjprescott


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


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 (i) social cognition for humanoid robots including the possibility synthetic autobiographical memory and of a robot "sense of self”; (ii) active touch sensing for attention, orienting, and spatial memory; (iii) assistive and companion robotic technologies; (iv) haptic interfaces for sensory augmentation; (v) telepresence robotics, and (vi) 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.

2016 Highlights


  • EU Future Emerging Technologies Flagship. T.J. Prescott (Sheffield PI): The Human Brain Project (2016-).  Project value to Sheffield €400,000 (over two years).
  • 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.

Activities and Distinctions

Plenary and Invited Talks

  • 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)


A list of key publications can be found below.  For a full list of publications please click here or via Google Scholar. As of December 2016 I have an h-factor of 32 (Google Scholar) based on around 5800 citations.  In addition to my research output I have authored a number of shorter pieces of general interest, about artificial intelligence and robotics, for the online magazine The Conversation.

Journal articles


  • Prescott TJ & Verschure PFMJ (2016) Action-oriented Cognition and its implications : Contextualising the New Science of Mind In Engel AK, Friston K & Kragic D (Ed.), The Pragmatic Turn Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science Mit Press
  • Prescott AJ, Mitchinson B, Lepora NF, Wilson SP, Anderson SR, Porrill J, Dean P, Fox CW, Pearson MJ, Sullivan JC & Pipe AG (2015) The robot vibrissal system: Understanding mammalian sensorimotor co-ordination through biomimetics In Krieger P & Groh A (Ed.), Sensorimotor Integration in the Whisker System Springer View this article in WRRO
  • Chambers JM, Gurney K, Humphries M & Prescott A (2012) Mechanisms of choice in the primate brain: a quick look at positive feedback, Modelling Natural Action Selection (pp. 390-420). Cambridge University Press View this article in WRRO
  • Prescott AJ, Mitchinson B, Pearson MJ & Pipe AG (2011) Biomimetic robots as scientific models: a view from the whisker tip In Krichmar J & Wagatsuma H (Ed.), Neuromorphic and Brain-Based Robots (pp. 23-57). Cambridge University Press View this article in WRRO
  • Prescott AJ & Mayhew JEW (1992) Adaptive local navigation In Blake A & Yuille A (Ed.), Active Vision The MIT Press

Conference proceedings papers

Edited books