Tony Belpaeme is Professor at Ghent University and Professor of Cognitive Systems and Robotics at Plymouth University. He is a member of IDLab – imec at Ghent and is associated with the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems at Plymouth. His research interests include social systems, cognitive robotics, and artificial intelligence in general.
Until April 2005 he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Flemish fund for scientific research (FWO Vlaanderen), and was affiliated with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, directed by Luc Steels, at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He held a guest professorship at the same university, where he taught introductory artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.
Starting from the premise that intelligence is rooted in social interaction, Tony and team try to further the science and technology behind artificial intelligence and social robots. This results in a spectrum of results, from theoretical insights to practical applications. The theoretical insights, in which he argues that interaction is central to natural and artificial cognition and that robots and machines should be sensitive to language and paralinguistic social mechanisms used by people, has drawn considerable academic attention. He complements his work by applying these insights in the design and implementation of robots and robotic applications. Recently this work has led to a spin-off company (Syntheligence) and to the uptake of this research in clinical practice, in which robots are used to complement the support and education of hospitalised children.
His research is regularly used as a showcase of funding success by various funding agencies, most recently the Research Councils UK, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the European Commission. The combination of both theoretical cognitive systems research applied to topics with societal relevance has gained him an international reputation. His research has been exhibited at the Natural History Museum London, the Wellcome Trust, the London Science Museum, and the National Space Centre. He has featured in IEEE Spectrum, the Communications of the ACM, and Scientific American. In 2012 his work was named as one of “ten life-changing ideas under research at UK universities” by Research Councils UK, and in 2014 his work was lauded as one of “20 new ideas from the UK that will change the world“.