CEDAR February 2024 Meeting

On Wednesday the 27th of February, 2024, the first CEDAR meeting of the year took place in E17, on the Edinburgh Napier University Merchiston campus and simultaneously on Teams.

Two presentations were delivered by the following CEDAR members:

1 – Franziska Heck PhD candidate

“Human-Robot Interaction: Social robots as companions for students to improve well-being, to prevent/reduce loneliness.”

Franziska Heck has recently started her PhD in the field of Human-Robot Interaction at Napier.

She wants to investigate whether social robots can be used as companions for students to improve their well-being and combat loneliness. She is investigating whether they can support students more effectively with interventions than digital aids such as apps or chatbots.

Finally, the work will provide inspiration and recommendations for improvement for the industry, for future robots and applications.

Her presentation led to interesting interactions with the audience on:

Loneliness: To what extent can social robots prevent or reduce social interactions with other people?

– Mediation/moderation
– Experiences with recruitment and timing of experiments
– Intervention in the experiment: Are positive psychology exercises appropriate?

AI: What are the risks of AI in human-robot interaction?

2 – Lucy Downey and Prof Achille Fonzone

“Automated buses – What about their passengers?”

Professor Achille Fonzone and Dr Lucy Downey, from the Transport Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier, presented the CAVForth Autonomous Bus Project.

The primary objective of the project is to deliver an autonomous (self-driving) scheduled passenger service with Stagecoach East Scotland, carrying up to 10,000 passengers per week along a 28-mile route between Edinburgh and Fife, across the Forth Road Bridge.

The Napier team is one of six partners on the project and is responsible for monitoring societal acceptance of autonomous vehicles on Scotland’s roads.

A mixed-method approach is used with online surveys and focus groups, structured interviews and stakeholder consultations.

Stakeholder consultation show:

The stakeholders see benefits in the social (road safety) and economic (financial savings and network performance) aspects; and risks in the social aspects (road safety) and technology (AB performance and reliability).

The pre-trial passengers’ replies show:

Less than a quarter considered themselves well informed about autonomous buses.

49.3% would use autonomous buses at the time of their introduction or shortly afterwards. 27.2% would wait a while. 16.2% would be use them only if it was absolutely necessary and 7.2% would refuse to use them.

The most eager to use autonomous buses are young males, those living in rural areas, those who have experience with advanced driver automated systems in their cars, and those who thought the AV bus ride would be more comfortable compared to a traditional bus.

Over three-quarters (76.5%) of survey participants expressed a willingness to ride when a member of staff is on board to monitor vehicle operations and provide customer care. Very few, less than a fifth, would agree to ride in a bus without an employee on board.

The bus passengers’ replies show:

The majority of passengers agreed the bus was driven well (95%) in a safe manner (95%) and the ride was smooth (86%).

Focus Groups with passengers showed:

  • Mostly very positive feedback
  • Excited to see technology deployed in a real world setting & on their ‘doorstep’
  • AB1 ride was generally comfortable
  • Did not perceive the experience as different from a conventional bus (except for bus captains, seatbelts + harsh)

Findings from structured interviews with the drivers showed:

  • Supervising an AV Bus requires much higher levels concentration compared to manual driving;
  • They trust the system, it’s reliable, easy to take-over if needed
  • Service could be improved by less harsh braking, making more of the route autonomous, improving waiting facilities at Edinburgh Park, and more passengers

Further research is ongoing including onboard passenger surveys and comfort measurements.


  • Welcome to Franziska Heck, Joanna Aldhous, and Frauke Zeller, new CEDAR members! It’s wonderful to have you on board!
  • The next CEDAR meeting will be held on the 26th March from 3:30pm-5pm in E17 in Merchiston or on Teams.

Inauguration of the CEDAR lab “Immersive Environment Laboratory”

On Wednesday the 8th of November, 2023, the CEDAR Lab “Immersive Environment Laboratory” officially opened its new premises, in 1C22, on the Edinburgh Napier University Sighthill campus.

The CEDAR lab “Immersive Environment Laboratory” is a newly established physical space containing state-of-the-art equipment developed in the past year and carefully selected for cross-technique compatibility including a new suite for virtual reality and augmented reality (Vive Focus 3/Hololens).

The event started with a short speech from Professor Gary Hutchison, dean of the School of Applied Science (SAS), who was pleased to celebrate this new milestone following the creation of the research centre. It was the opportunity to recall that CEDAR is the first interdisciplinary research centre based at Napier.

Its creation has been possible thanks to the work of Dr Marina Wimmer (SAS) and Dr Suha Jaradat (SCEBE), with the support of the heads of research Dr Graham Wright (SAS) and Pr Ben Paechter (SCEBE).

“This has been a truly exciting opportunity to be able to develop a laboratory space from an interdisciplinary perspective and encapsulate the interdisciplinarity in both the laboratory equipment and the design of the space itself”.
Dr Marina Wimmer

“It has been a delight collaborating with Dr Marina Wimmer as a co-lead of this unique research centre which not only creates fantastic opportunities for colleagues from various Schools across the University and beyond to explore issues related to Mind, Creativity and the Environment but also has a physical space with state of the art equipment to facilitate interdisciplinary research projects.”
Dr Suha Jaradat

The attendees were then invited to take part in the three demonstrations using the equipment and try outs: VR, fNIRS/eye-tracking, 360 degrees.

  • The first demo was in the VR room, facilitated by Iyad Sawaftah who is the first CEDAR PhD candidate.

Iyad delves into the fascinating realm of environmental influences on cognitive abilities, specifically focusing on creativity and cognitive flexibility. Utilizing the cutting-edge technology of virtual reality, he aims to unravel the secrets of productivity in various settings—ranging from offices, cafes, laboratories, and natural settings. What sets Iyad’s investigation apart is the innovative use of VR tools, allowing him to manipulate and scrutinize different conditions within these environments effortlessly.

People took the opportunity to use the VR headset and experience first-hand Iyad’s facilities.

Using the high-tech facilities of the CEDAR lab, Iyad harnesses the power of a PC machine to craft intricate virtual environments, meticulously designed for experimentation using VR tools. Monitoring participants navigating virtual environments provides a comprehensive understanding of the impact of environmental factors on cognitive performance.

Iyad designed the wallpaper in collaboration with Dr Chris Gillespie, our Psychology technician who is also an artist.

  • The second demo was led by Ted Carlson Webster who presented his research using fNIRS/eye-tracking

Ted works on false memories for fake news. He investigates which individual factors might predict false memory formation for fake news.

Ted demonstrated how fake news can be investigated using Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which is an optical brain monitoring technique which uses near-infrared light for functional neuroimaging. fNIRS is a non-invasive neuroimaging technique which can be used in portable contexts. Using fNIRS, changes in blood flow that indicate regional cortical activation can be measured on a precise timescale, such as during the reading of a news headline.

Researchers were captivated by Ted’s explanations about his research.

As behaviour is an important aspect of reading or sharing fake news, Ted is also interested in using eye tracking. This may provide more insight into where people look while reading fake news, or what is read (if anything) when a fact-check is included.

  • The third demo was led by Dr Ian Cunnigham about using Mobile 360° Video

Ian explained 360° video, also called immersive videos or spherical videos, provides a multi-directional image from a stationary or mobile, first-person perspective.

360 ° videos are recordings of the real-world environment in which a view in every direction is recorded at the same time by using a specific camera with a fish-eye lens.

The video uploaded on YouTube is accessible to the users by scanning a QR code with a mobile phone. And with a VR headset, people can live a real-life experience and rediscover their practice or activity.

Researchers discussed potential future collaboration.

Currently, 360° videos are used as a pedagogical tool in a variety of applications, including sports training, teachers’ or medical education.”

The event has been a chance to experience the state-of-the-art equipment of the new CEDAR lab “Immersive Environment Laboratory”. It has also been a great opportunity to explore any potential future collaboration.

NEXT CEDAR MEETING: the 12th of December. Place tbc.

Playing music in childhood linked to a sharper mind in later life

By Dr Judith Okely

Taking up a musical instrument in childhood and adolescence is associated with improved thinking skills in older age, research shows.

People with more experience of playing a musical instrument showed more lifetime improvement on a test of cognitive ability than those with less or no experience.

Importantly, this was the case even when accounting for a person’s socio-economic status, years of education, childhood cognitive ability and health status in older age.

The test of cognitive ability was taken at ages 11 and 70, and included questions requiring verbal reasoning, spatial awareness, and numerical analysis.

Out of the 366 study participants, 117 reported some experience of playing a musical instrument – mostly during childhood and adolescence. The most commonly played instrument was the piano, but many other instruments were played too, such as accordion, bagpipes, guitar and violin.

The findings provide some of the first evidence that playing an instrument is associated with small, but detectable, cognitive benefits over the life-course.

Researchers say the results cannot prove musical training boosts cognitive ability because factors not included in the study – such as other activities or parental influence – could have played their part.

The research team, however, intends to build upon these findings as it investigates which factors might contribute to healthy brain ageing.

Emeritus Professor Ian Deary, formerly Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We have to emphasise that the association we found between instrument-playing and lifetime cognitive improvement was small, and that we cannot prove that the former caused the latter.

“However, as we and others search for the many small effects that might contribute toward some people’s brains ageing more healthily than others, these results are worth following up.”

Study participants were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 – a group of individuals from Edinburgh and the Lothians, born in 1936, who took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947.

The individuals have been tested on a number of physical and mental functions as they grow older, including retaking the standardised cognitive ability test each took as an 11 year old.

Cohort members who had retaken the test aged 70 were quizzed about their musical experiences, by researchers keen to find out if playing an instrument is related to healthy ageing.

The team used statistical models to look for associations between a person’s having played a musical instrument and changes in their thinking skills between ages 11 and 70.

The study, funded by Age UK and the Economic and Social Research Council, is published in the journal Psychological Science. It was a collaboration involving researchers in psychology and music.

Dr Judith Okely, now a Lecturer in Psychology at Napier University, said: “These results add to the evidence that activities that are mentally challenging, such as learning to play a musical instrument, might be associated with better thinking skills.”

Dr Katie Overy, of the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music, said: “Music has so much to offer as a fun, social activity – it is exciting to find that learning to play a musical instrument may also contribute to healthy cognitive ageing.”

To read full scientific paper, please click here.

Developing a framework to increase efficiency and improve performance across the lifecycle of buildings

By Dr Suha Jaradat and Professor Mark Deakin

Dr Suha Jaradat had been awarded £169 000 from Innovate UK to work with an architectural enterprise in developing an innovative framework that allows buildings to increase energy efficiency and improve performance in energy savings. The project starting in September 2022 focuses on how building information modelling (BIM), that is, tools, processes and technologies that digitally document a building’s performance, planning, construction and operation can be implemented in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The output will be a framework and recommendations for effective BIM implementation in SMEs.

360° Video in Teacher Education – a novel professional development tool

By Dr Ian Cunningham

360° Video is a new professional development tool that allows multi-directional video capture of classroom environment. It develops teachers’ awareness of the pupils’ needs that would otherwise be missed in a traditional format such as standing in front of the classroom. This is a perfect example of how the environment is important in assessing students’ needs and teaching practices that are most efficient.

To read full scientific paper, please click here.

To see event details, please click here.