Prof Peter Cowling

Co-Investigator (formerly Principal Investigator 2014-19)
Department of Computer Science
Queen Mary, University of London

In 2014, I was principal investigator, leading the team which won funding for DC Labs. Me, Marian Ursu and the first DC Labs Manager, Emma Cowling (we married in 2018!) saw the Labs through its conception, birth and growth from 2014-2019. Now I am very happy to step down and wish Marian well as DC Labs Director. During my time as Director, I worked with everyone, across all areas, to ensure a research environment that encouraged people to think across disciplines and to do world-leading digital creativity research that actually makes a difference to the lives of others (i.e. has high impact).

I am also Director for the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI). The advantage of having held both these roles is that I can see the synergies between the projects, for example many DC Labs research staff now supervise IGGI PhD students, and IGGI graduates have become postdocs in DC Labs. You'll see the goals of these projects elsewhere - but for me the joy in them is to work with some of the sparkiest researchers in the world, and to develop a vision and  direction that enables individuals and small teams to contribute to big research questions - doing something that is genuinely important to the wider world.

Most of my research time is now devoted to questions of finding the best direction for research in AI and digital creativity. I lead the AI futures project in DC Labs. Our approach is to perceive opportunities, goals and directions leading to the best possible future - hopefully an antidote to the dystopian visions of Hollywood and of most other researchers in this area. In the project we work with the reality that every human on this planet has a unique, thought-generated world - I feel very uncomfortable with research or technology that abstracts that away (the classic example being the filter bubbles and extreme content that result from humans regarded simply as click generators in social media).

I've been creating Artificial Intelligence for Games, and playing games, since I was a young child, and I am fascinated by the ways we can make decisions in games (and also in other areas such as planning and scheduling). I want to understand how we can build AI so as to make the "best" decision - where "best" is not narrowly interpreted, but can include notions like being "the most fun" or "leading to the stickiest learning".

I also want to use games to understand how people make decisions, and what we can learn about their behaviour by observing what they do in gameplay. My research directions fit very well with being Director or IGGI and a DC Labs Investigator - decisions are everywhere - and I've really enjoyed working with people from other disciplines and with expertise that complements my own. It is a privilege to work with a great mix of world-leading people working towards the common goal of understanding where research into digital creativity really can take us…