Staff within the Department of Computer Science have research interests in Visualization, Interaction & Computer Graphics (with a particular focus on Medical Graphics), Cyber Security and Discrete Optimisation.

Recent Submissions

  • Using Voice Input to Control and Interact With a Narrative Video Game

    Copaceanu, Andrei; Weinel, Jonathan; Cunningham, Stuart; University of Greenwich; University of Chester (BCS Learning and Development, 2024-07)
    With the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) over recent years, especially the breakthrough in technology that OpenAI achieved with the natural language generative model of ChatGPT, virtual assistants and voice interactive devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, have become popular with the general public. This is due to their ease of use, accessibility, and ability to be used without physical interaction. When it comes to the video games industry, there have been attempts to implement voice input as a core mechanic, with various levels of success. Ultimately, voice input has been mostly used as a separate mechanic or as an alternative to traditional input methods. This project will investigate different methods of using voice input to control and interact with a narrative video game. The research will analyse which method is most effective in facilitating player control of the game and identify challenges related to implementation. This paper also includes a work-in-progress demonstration of a voice-activated game made in Unreal Engine.
  • Audience perceptions of Foley footsteps and 3D realism designed to convey walker characteristics

    Cunningham, Stuart; McGregor, Iain; University of Chester; Edinburgh Napier University (Springer, 2024-06-11)
    Foley artistry is an essential part of the audio post-production process for film, television, games, and animation. By extension, it is as crucial in emergent media such as virtual, mixed, and augmented reality. Footsteps are a core activity that a Foley artist must undertake and convey information about the characters and environment presented on-screen. This study sought to identify if characteristics of age, gender, weight, health, and confidence could be conveyed, using sounds created by a professional Foley artist, in three different 3D humanoid models, following a single walk cycle. An experiment was conducted with human participants (n=100) and found that Foley manipulations could convey all the intended characteristics with varying degrees of contextual success. It was shown that the abstract 3D models were capable of communicating characteristics of age, gender, and weight. A discussion of the literature and inspection of related audio features with the Foley clips suggest signal parameters of frequency, envelope, and novelty may be a subset of markers of those perceived characteristics. The findings are relevant to researchers and practitioners in linear and interactive media and demonstrate mechanisms by which Foley can contribute useful information and concepts about on-screen characters.
  • Lossless Encoding of Time-Aggregated Neuromorphic Vision Sensor Data Based on Point-Cloud Compression

    Adhuran, Jayasingam; Khan, Nabeel; Martini, Maria; Kingston University London; University of Chester (MDPI, 2024-02-21)
    Neuromorphic Vision Sensors (NVSs) are emerging sensors that acquire visual information asynchronously when changes occur in the scene. Their advantages versus synchronous capturing (frame-based video) include a low power consumption, a high dynamic range, an extremely high temporal resolution, and lower data rates. Although the acquisition strategy already results in much lower data rates than conventional video, NVS data can be further compressed. For this purpose, we recently proposed Time Aggregation-based Lossless Video Encoding for Neuromorphic Vision Sensor Data (TALVEN), consisting in the time aggregation of NVS events in the form of pixel-based event histograms, arrangement of the data in a specific format, and lossless compression inspired by video encoding. In this paper, we still leverage time aggregation but, rather than performing encoding inspired by frame-based video coding, we encode an appropriate representation of the time-aggregated data via point-cloud compression (similar to another one of our previous works, where time aggregation was not used). The proposed strategy, Time-Aggregated Lossless Encoding of Events based on Point-Cloud Compression (TALEN-PCC), outperforms the originally proposed TALVEN encoding strategy for the content in the considered dataset. The gain in terms of the compression ratio is the highest for low-event rate and low-complexity scenes, whereas the improvement is minimal for high-complexity and high-event rate scenes. According to experiments on outdoor and indoor spike event data, TALEN-PCC achieves higher compression gains for time aggregation intervals of more than 5 ms. However, the compression gains are lower when compared to state-of-the-art approaches for time aggregation intervals of less than 5 ms.
  • An Ultra-Energy-Efficient Reversible Quantum-Dot Cellular Automata 8:1 Multiplexer Circuit

    Alharbi, Mohammed; Edwards, Gerard; Stocker, Richard; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Chester (MDPI, 2024-01-16)
    Energy efficiency considerations in terms of reduced power dissipation are a significant issue in the design of digital circuits for very large-scale integration (VLSI) systems. Quantum-dot cellular automata (QCA) is an emerging ultralow power dissipation approach, distinct from traditional, complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology, for building digital computing circuits. Developing fully reversible QCA circuits has the potential to significantly reduce energy dissipation. Multiplexers are fundamental elements in the construction of useful digital circuits. In this paper, a novel, multilayer, fully reversible QCA 8:1 multiplexer circuit with ultralow energy dissipation is introduced. The power dissipation of the proposed multiplexer is simulated using the QCADesigner-E version 2.2 tool, describing the microscopic physical mechanisms underlying the QCA operation. The results show that the proposed reversible QCA 8:1 multiplexer consumes 89% less energy than the most energy-efficient 8:1 multiplexer circuit previously presented in the literature.
  • Reversible Quantum-Dot Cellular Automata-Based Arithmetic Logic Unit

    Alharbi, Mohammed; Edwards, Gerard; Stocker, Richard; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Chester (MDPI, 2023-08-29)
    Quantum-dot cellular automata (QCA) are a promising nanoscale computing technology that exploits the quantum mechanical tunneling of electrons between quantum dots in a cell andelectrostatic interaction between dots in neighboring cells. QCA can achieve higher speed, lowerpower, and smaller areas than conventional, complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. Developing QCA circuits in a logically and physically reversible manner can provide exceptional reductions in energy dissipation. The main challenge is to maintain reversibility down to the physical level. A crucial component of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is the arithmetic logic unit (ALU), which executes multiple logical and arithmetic functions on the data processed by the CPU. Current QCA ALU designs are either irreversible or logically reversible; however, they lack physical reversibility, a crucial requirement to increase energy efficiency. This paper shows a new multilayer design for a QCA ALU that can carry out 16 different operations and is both logically and physically reversible. The design is based on reversible majority gates, which are the key building blocks. We use QCA Designer-E software to simulate and evaluate energy dissipation. The proposed logically and physically reversible QCA ALU offers an improvement of 88.8% in energy efficiency. Compared to the next most efficient 16-operation QCA ALU, this ALU uses 51% fewer QCA cells and 47% less area.
  • Towards a Framework of Aesthetics in Sonic Interaction

    Cunningham, Stuart; McGregor, Iain; Weinel, Jonathan; Darby, John; Stockman, Tony; University of Chester; Edinburgh Napier University; University of Greenwich; Manchester Metropolitan University; Queen Mary University of London (Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2023-10-11)
    As interaction design has advanced, increased attention has been directed to the role that aesthetics play in shaping factors of user experience. Historically stemming from philosophy and the arts, aesthetics in interaction design has gravitated towards visual aspects of interface design thus far, with sonic aesthetics being underrepresented. This article defines and describes key dimensions of sonic aesthetics by drawing upon the literature and the authors’ experiences as practitioners and researchers. A framework is presented for discussion and evaluation, which incorporates aspects of classical and expressive aesthetics. These aspects of aesthetics are linked to low-level audio features, contextual factors, and user- centred experiences. It is intended that this initial framework will serve as a lens for the design, and appraisal, of sounds in interaction scenarios and that it can be iterated upon in the future through experience and empirical research.
  • Towards Automated Testing and Feedback of Object-Oriented Programming Tasks in Java

    Muncey, Andrew; University of Chester (Association for Computing Machinery, 2023-09-25)
    This study describes the design of, and initial results from using, our Java Object-Oriented Feedback Tool (JOOFT). JOOFT is a Java library designed to facilitate the automation of feedback relating to aspects of class design in Java. It permits the tutor to write code, such as unit tests, before the corresponding code is written by students, and support the provision of automated feedback to the students as they create code. Provided that the students’ code compiles, the tool can provide both generic and customized feedback on aspects such as constructor implementation, correct use of encapsulation, naming conventions, etc.
  • Novel ultra-energy-efficient reversible designs of sequential logic quantum-dot cellular automata flip-flop circuits

    Alharbi, Mohammed; Edwards, Gerard; Stocker, Richard; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Chester (Springer, 2023-03-01)
    Quantum-dot cellular automata (QCA) is a technological approach to implement digital circuits with exceptionally high integration density, high switching frequency, and low energy dissipation. QCA circuits are a potential solution to the energy dissipation issues created by shrinking microprocessors with ultra-high integration densities. Current QCA circuit designs are irreversible, yet reversible circuits are known to increase energy efficiency. Thus, the development of reversible QCA circuits will further reduce energy dissipation. This paper presents novel reversible and irreversible sequential QCA set/reset (SR), data (D), Jack Kilby (JK), and toggle (T) flip-flop designs based on the majority gate that utilizes the universal, standard, and efficient (USE) clocking scheme, which allows the implementation of feedback paths and easy routing for sequential QCA-based circuits. The simulation results confirm that the proposed reversible QCA USE sequential flip-flop circuits exhibit energy dissipation less than the Landauer energy limit. Irreversible QCA USE flip-flop designs, although having higher energy dissipation, sometimes have floorplan areas and delay times less than those of reversible designs; therefore, they are also explored. The trade-offs between the energy dissipation versus the area cost and delay time for the reversible and irreversible QCA circuits are examined comprehensively.
  • DNS tunnelling, exfiltration and detection over cloud environments

    Salat, Lehel; Davis, Mastaneh; Khan, Nabeel; University of Chester; Kingston University (MDPI, 2023-03-02)
    The domain name system (DNS) protocol is fundamental to the operation of the internet, however, in recent years various methodologies have been developed that enable DNS attacks on organisations. In the last few years, the increased use of cloud services by organisations has created further security challenges as cyber criminals use numerous methodologies to exploit cloud services, configurations and the DNS protocol. In this paper, two different DNS tunnelling methods, Iodine and DNScat, have been conducted in the cloud environment (Google and AWS) and positive results of exfiltration have been achieved under different firewall configurations. Detection of malicious use of DNS protocol can be a challenge for organisations with limited cybersecurity support and expertise. In this study, various DNS tunnelling detection techniques were utilised in a cloud environment to create an effective monitoring system with a reliable detection rate, low implementation cost, and ease of use for organisations with limited detection capabilities. The Elastic stack (an open-source framework) was used to configure a DNS monitoring system and to analyse the collected DNS logs. Furthermore, payload and traffic analysis techniques were implemented to identify different tunnelling methods. This cloud-based monitoring system offers various detection techniques that can be used for monitoring DNS activities of any network especially accessible to small organisations. Moreover, the Elastic stack is open-source and it has no limitation with regards to the data that can be uploaded daily.
  • Ret-gadgets in RISC-V-based Binaries Resulting in Traps for Hijackers

    Oyinloye, Toyosi; Speakman, Lee; Eze, Thaddeus; University of Chester; University of Salford (Academic Conferences International, 2023-02-28)
    The presence of instructions within executable programs is what makes the binaries executable. However, attackers leverage on the same to achieve some form of Control Flow Hijacking (CFH). Such code re-use attacks have also been found to lead to Denial of Service (DoS). An example of code re-use attack is Return Oriented Programming (ROP) which is caused by passing input crafted as chained sequences of instructions that are already existing as subroutines in the target program. The instructions are called gadgets and they would normally end with ret. The ret instructions enable the flow of hijacked execution from one set of instruction to another within the attacker’s control. There could however be exceptions depending on the structure of the chained gadgets where the chained gadget fails to run its course due to inability of specific gadgets to replace the value in the return address (ra) register. The dangers of chained gadgets are not a new idea but the possibility for an attacker’s gadget chain to fall into a trap during a ROP attack is not commonly addressed. In addition to this, recent studies have revealed that understanding the behaviours of gadgets would be useful for building information base in training machine learning (ML) models to combat ROP. This study explains the behaviour of certain ROP gadgets showing the possibility of occurrence of a loop in execution during exploitation. A sample program which accesses gadgets from the GNU C library (glibc) is used to demonstrate the findings. Gadgets identified with this possibility are poor for chaining as they do not contain instructions to load or move new values to the ra register and would produce unreliable exploits. This would result in a trap for the chained gadgets instead of arbitrary code execution, and DoS on the path of the user. This implies that the impact that a ROP chain could have on a targeted process does not only rely on the underlying system architecture but also on relies on the structure of the chained gadget. In this paper, the RISC-V architecture is the focus, new gadget finders (scripts are available) are presented, and sample of chained gadgets are analysed on a RISC-V -based binary.
  • Robot companion cats for people at home with dementia: A qualitative case study on companotics

    Pike, Joanne; Picking, Richard; Cunningham, Stuart; Wrexham Glyndwr University; Wrexham Glyndwr University; University of Chester (SAGE Publications, 2020-07-16)
    The use of robot companion pets for people in care homes has been extensively studied. The results are largely positive and suggest that they are valuable in enhancing wellbeing, communication and behavioural aspects. However, there has been little research in people’s own homes, possibly due to the cost and complexity of some of the robot pets currently available. As dementia affects people in different ways, this study explores the effects of a robot cat for people in their own homes, without specifically investigating the effects on a particular symptom. We utilised a case study design to investigate the proposition that various factors influence the impact of a robot cat on the person living with dementia and their carer, including acceptability of the robot pet and acceptance of dementia and its symptoms. The qualitative analysis explores the similarities and differences within the data which were gathered during interviews with people with dementia and their families. This analysis revealed four themes: Distraction, Communication, Acceptance and rejection, and Connecting with the cat and connecting with others. These themes were synthesised into two overarching themes: the effect of the cat on mood and behaviour, and The interaction with the cat. We present the acceptability and impact of the robot cat on symptoms of dementia, with data presented across and within the group of participants. Our analysis suggests that benefits of the robot pet were evident, and although this was a small-scale study, where they were accepted, robot pets provided positive outcomes for the participants and their families.
  • Supervised machine learning for audio emotion recognition: Enhancing film sound design using audio features, regression models and artificial neural networks

    Cunningham, Stuart; Ridley, Harrison; Weinel, Jonathan; Picking, Richard; Wrexham Glyndwr University; Manchester Metropolitan University; London South Bank University; University of Chester (Springer, 2020-04-22)
    The field of Music Emotion Recognition has become and established research sub-domain of Music Information Retrieval. Less attention has been directed towards the counterpart domain of Audio Emotion Recognition, which focuses upon detection of emotional stimuli resulting from non-musical sound. By better understanding how sounds provoke emotional responses in an audience, it may be possible to enhance the work of sound designers. The work in this paper uses the International Affective Digital Sounds set. A total of 76 features are extracted from the sounds, spanning the time and frequency domains. The features are then subjected to an initial analysis to determine what level of similarity exists between pairs of features measured using Pearson’s r correlation coefficient before being used as inputs to a multiple regression model to determine their weighting and relative importance. The features are then used as the input to two machine learning approaches: regression modelling and artificial neural networks in order to determine their ability to predict the emotional dimensions of arousal and valence. It was found that a small number of strong correlations exist between the features and that a greater number of features contribute significantly to the predictive power of emotional valence, rather than arousal. Shallow neural networks perform significantly better than a range of regression models and the best performing networks were able to account for 64.4% of the variance in prediction of arousal and 65.4% in the case of valence. These findings are a major improvement over those encountered in the literature. Several extensions of this research are discussed, including work related to improving data sets as well as the modelling processes.
  • A multi-genre model for music emotion recognition using linear regressors

    Griffiths, Darryl; Cunningham, Stuart; Weinel, Jonathan; Picking, Richard; Wrexham Glyndwr University; Manchester Metropolitan University; University of Greenwich; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-09-21)
    Making the link between human emotion and music is challenging. Our aim was to produce an efficient system that emotionally rates songs from multiple genres. To achieve this, we employed a series of online self-report studies, utilising Russell's circumplex model. The first study (n = 44) identified audio features that map to arousal and valence for 20 songs. From this, we constructed a set of linear regressors. The second study (n = 158) measured the efficacy of our system, utilising 40 new songs to create a ground truth. Results show our approach may be effective at emotionally rating music, particularly in the prediction of valence.
  • Evaluating Use of the Doppler Effect to Enhance Auditory Alerts

    Cunningham, Stuart; McGregor, Iain; Manchester Metropolitan University; Edinburgh Napier University; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-02-10)
    Auditory alerts are an essential part of many multi-modal interaction scenarios, particularly in safety and mission critical settings, such as hospitals and transportation. A variety of strategies can be employed in the design of auditory alerts, often orienting manipulation of volume and pitch parameters. However, manipulations by applying a Doppler effect are under-investigated. A perceptual listening test is conducted (n = 100) using multiple alert sounds that are subjected to a variety of volume, pitch, and Doppler manipulations, with the unaltered sounds serving as a benchmark. Applying a mixed methods approach consisting of inferential statistics and thematic analysis, it is found that decreases in volume and a Doppler simulation of a sound moving away reduce importance and urgency, increase safety, are harder to detect, and are perceived as being more distant in perceptions of auditory alerts. Further, increases in volume and a Doppler simulation of a sound approaching are effective in communicating safety, whilst pitch manipulations were much less effective. Further work is required to provide wider, ecologically valid, verification of these findings, particularly as to how listener detection of Doppler and volume manipulations can be improved.
  • Lossless Compression of Neuromorphic Vision Sensor Data Based on Point Cloud Representation

    Martini, Maria; Adhuran, Jayasingham; Khan, Nabeel; Kingston University London; University of Chester (IEEE, 2022-11-14)
    Visual information varying over time is typically captured by cameras that acquire data via images (frames) equally spaced in time. Using a different approach, Neuromorphic Vision Sensors (NVSs) are emerging visual capturing devices that only acquire information when changes occur in the scene. This results in major advantages in terms of low power consumption, wide dynamic range, high temporal resolution, and lower data rates than conventional video. Although the acquisition strategy already results in much lower data rates than conventional video, such data can be further compressed. To this end, in this paper we propose a lossless compression strategy based on point cloud compression, inspired by the observation that, by appropriately reporting NVS data in a $(x,y,t)$ tridimensional space, we have a point cloud representation of NVS data. The proposed strategy outperforms the benchmark strategies resulting in a compression ratio up to 30% higher for the considered.
  • Design and Simulation of Reversible Time-Synchronized Quantum-Dot Cellular Automata Combinational Logic Circuits with Ultralow Energy Dissipation

    Edwards, Gerard; Alharbi, Mohammed; Stocker, Richard; University of Chester; John Moores University (TuEngr, 2022-12-01)
    The quantum-dot cellular automata (QCA) represent emerging nanotechnology that is poised to supersede the current complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor digital integrated circuit technology. QCA constitutes an extremely promising transistor-less paradigm that can be downscaled to the molecular level, thereby facilitating tera-scale device integration and extremely low energy dissipation. Reversible QCA circuits, which have reversibility sustained down from the logical level to the physical level, can execute computing operations dissipating less energy than the Landauer energy limit (kBTln2). Time synchronization of logic gates is an essential additional requirement, especially in cases involving complex circuits, for ensuring accurate computational results. This paper reports the design and simulation of eight new both logically and physically reversible time-synchronized QCA combinational logic circuits. The new circuit design presented here mitigates the clock delay problems, which are caused by the non-synchronization of logic gate information, via the use of an inherently more symmetric circuit configuration. The simulation results confirm the behaviour of the proposed reversible time-synchronized QCA combinational logic circuits which exhibit ultralow energy dissipation and simultaneously provide accurate computational results.
  • Deep Learning based Human Detection in Privacy-Preserved Surveillance Videos

    Yousuf, Muhammad Jehanzaib; Kanwal, Nadia; Ansari, Mohammad Samar; Asghar, Mamoona; Lee, Brian; Technological University of the Shannon; Keele University; University of Chester; University of Galway (BCS: The Chartered Institute for I.T., 2022-07-01)
    Visual surveillance systems have been improving rapidly over the recent past, becoming more capable and pervasive with incorporation of artificial intelligence. At the same time such surveillance systems are exposing the public to new privacy and security threats. There have been an increasing number of reports of blatant abuse of surveillance technologies. To counteract this, data privacy regulations (e.g. GDPR in Europe) have provided guidelines for data collection and data processing. However, there is still a need for a private and secure method of model training for advanced machine learning and deep learning algorithms. To this end, in this paper we propose a privacy-preserved method for visual surveillance. We first develop a dataset of privacy preserved videos. The data in these videos is masked using Gaussian Mixture Model (GMM) and selective encryption. We then train high-performance object detection models on the generated dataset. The proposed method utilizes state-of-art object detection deep learning models (viz. YOLOv4 and YOLOv5) to perform human/object detection in masked videos. The results are encouraging, and are pointers to the viability of the use of modern day deep learning models for object detection in privacy-preserved videos.
  • Local-Partial Signal Combining Schemes for Cell-Free Large-Scale MU-MIMO Systems with Limited Fronthaul Capacity and Spatial Correlation Channels

    Alammari, Amr A.; Sharique, Mohd; Moinuddin, Athar Ali; Ansari, Mohammad Samar; Aligarh Muslim University; University of Chester (MDPI, 2022-09-01)
    Cell-free large-scale multi-user MIMO is a promising technology for the 5G-and-beyond mobile communication networks. Scalable signal processing is the key challenge in achieving the benefits of cell-free systems. This study examines a distributed approach for cell-free deployment with user-centric configuration and finite fronthaul capacity. Moreover, the impact of scaling the pilot length, the number of access points (APs), and the number of antennas per AP on the achievable average spectral efficiency are investigated. Using the dynamic cooperative clustering (DCC) technique and large-scale fading decoding process, we derive an approximation of the signal-tointerference-plus-noise ratio in the criteria of two local combining schemes: Local-Partial Regularized Zero Forcing (RZF) and Local Maximum Ratio (MR). The results indicate that distributed approaches in the cell-free system have the advantage of decreasing the fronthaul signaling and the computing complexity. The results also show that the Local-Partial RZF provides the highest average spectral efficiency among all the distributed combining schemes because the computational complexity of the Local-Partial RZF is independent of the UTs. Therefore, it does not grow as the number of user terminals (UTs) increases.
  • AFOM: Advanced Flow of Motion Detection Algorithm for Dynamic Camera Videos

    Aribilola, Ifeoluwapo; Asghar, Mamoona; Kanwal, Nadia; Ansari, Mohammad Samar; Lee, Brian; Technological University of the Shannon; National University of Ireland; University of Keele; University of Chester (IEEE, 2022-07-19)
    The surveillance videos taken from dynamic cam-eras are susceptible to multiple security threats like replay attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, pixel correlation attacks etc. Using unsupervised learning, it is a challenge to detect objects in such surveillance videos, as fixed objects may appear to be in motion alongside the actual moving objects. But despite this challenge, the unsupervised learning techniques are efficient as they save object labelling and model training time, which is usually a case with supervised learning models. This paper proposes an effective computer vision-based object identification algorithm that can detect and separate stationary objects from moving objects in such videos. The proposed Advanced Flow Of Motion (AFOM) algorithm takes advantage of motion estimation between two consecutive frames and induces the estimated motion back to the frame to provide an improved detection on the dynamic camera videos. The comparative analysis demonstrates that the proposed AFOM outperforms a traditional dense optical flow (DOF) algorithm with an average increased difference of 56 % in accuracy, 61 % in precision, and 73 % in pixel space ratio (PSR), and with minimal higher object detection timing.
  • A single-layer asymmetric RNN with low hardware complexity for solving linear equations

    Ansari, Mohammad Samar; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2022-01-25)
    A single layer neural network for the solution of linear equations is presented. The proposed circuit is based on the standard Hopfield model albeit with the added flexibility that the interconnection weight matrix need not be symmetric. This results in an asymmetric Hopfield neural network capable of solving linear equations. PSPICE simulation results are given which verify the theoretical predictions. A simple technique to incorporate re-configurability into the circuit for setting the different weights of the interconnection is also included. Experimental results for circuits set up to solve small problems further confirm the operation of the proposed circuit.

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