Public Release: 

A robot walks into a bar...

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The image of a joke-telling robot, that can tailor its repartee while performing a stand-up comedy routine, has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Comedy Lab: Human vs Robot, by Toby Harris, a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London's Cognitive Science Research Group, stole the show ahead of many other stunning pictures, featuring research in action, which were entered into EPSRC's inaugural competition.

The competition's five categories were: Weird and Wonderful, Discovery, Equipment, Innovation, and People.

They feature, the beauty of Rayleigh-Taylor instability shown in salt water as it accelerates into fresh water, the amazing Gömböc - the world's only artificial self-righting shape, micro-scale vaccine mixing, cancer cells that resemble tropical islands seen from space, and mathematicians that appear to fly.

Congratulating the winners and entrants, Professor David Delpy, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said: "The quality of the entries made judging extremely hard but very inspiring. The breadth of images and imagination exhibited demonstrate the talent, both scientific and artistic, that resides in our community. Today is my last as EPSRC's CEO and announcing these results is a final pleasure after seven years working with some truly amazing people."

Winner Toby Harris said: "We're thrilled that our experiment pitting human stand-up comedians against a robot is inspiring others. This ground-breaking research is helping us to understand both what makes for a great performance and what makes for a compelling audience experience. We use new technologies to analyse people's moment-by-moment responses, so while teaching a robot stagecraft was fun, it was the ability to read and react to the audience that made it work.

"More than the creative industries are at stake here - by better understanding what happens between performers and audiences, we should gain new insights into the value of bringing students together for class, or workers to a conference table."

The competition had over 250 entries which were drawn from researchers in receipt of EPSRC funding. The judges were: Martin Keene, Group Picture Editor, Press Association; Dr Richard Johnston, Lecturer, College of Engineering, Swansea University; and Professor David Delpy, EPSRC's Chief Executive.

The first, second and third prize winning images with short descriptions are all available to download from the EPSRC's website


For media enquiries contact:

The EPSRC Press Office, Tel: 01793 444 404, e-mail:

Notes to Editors:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.