Short bio

Graham Wilcock has a PhD from UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) and is Adjunct Professor at University of Helsinki. He worked in industry as a software engineer with ICL (International Computers Limited) in Europe and with Sharp Corporation in Japan, and in academia with lectureships at UMIST, University of Helsinki and Imperial College London. In 2018-19 he was Visiting Professor at Kyoto University, Japan.

Before retiring in 2015, his research fields were natural language processing and linguistic annotation. With Prof. Nancy Ide (Vassar College) he organized a series of international workshops on NLP and XML, including the first Linguistic Annotation Workshop (LAW 2007). He received an IBM Innovation Award in 2008 for work on Unstructured Information Analytics. His book Introduction to Linguistic Annotation and Text Analytics (2009) was an Amazon best seller in natural language processing.

His recent research has focussed on spoken dialogue systems and human-robot dialogues. With Prof. Kristiina Jokinen (Tartu University) he developed WikiTalk, a Wikipedia-based robot dialogue system which won an award for Best Robot Design (Software Category) at ICSR 2017. He also worked on SamiTalk for the Academy of Finland DigiSami project led by Prof. Jokinen. Their book Dialogues with Social Robots was published by Springer in 2017.

Since retiring he has pursued research on talking robots in Japan, as Visiting Scholar at Doshisha University (2015 and 2016) and as Visiting Professor at Kyoto University (2018-19). His startup company CDM Interact continued development of WikiTalk, and also developed CityTalk, the first talking robot system to use the PyDial deep learning dialogue toolkit from University of Cambridge. His research on robot dialogue systems has been presented in papers and demos at COLING 2016, IJCAI 2018 and IJCAI 2019.


JSAI 2021

In June 2021, Graham Wilcock presented Recognising flexible intents and multiple domains in extended human-robot dialogues at 35th Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence (JSAI 2021).

WikiTalk and WikiListen at ECAI 2020

In September 2020, Graham Wilcock and Kristiina Jokinen presented WikiTalk and WikiListen by video at 24th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ECAI 2020) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Their paper WikiTalk and WikiListen: Towards listening robots that can join in conversations with topically relevant contributions was published in the ECAI 2020 proceedings.

ERICA and WikiTalk at IJCAI 2019

ERICA and WikiTalk

In August 2019, a demo of ERICA and WikiTalk was presented at 28th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2019) in Macao, China. A paper ERICA and WikiTalk by D. Lala, G. Wilcock, K. Jokinen and T. Kawahara was published in the IJCAI 2019 proceedings.

IWSDS 2019

In April 2019, Graham Wilcock and Kristiina Jokinen attended 10th International Workshop on Spoken Dialogue Systems (IWSDS 2019) in Siracusa, Italy, and gave a presentation Towards increasing naturalness and flexibility in human-robot dialogue systems.

Visiting Professor at Kyoto University

In 2018-19, Graham Wilcock was Visiting Professor at Kyoto University, invited by Professor Tatsuya Kawahara of the Graduate School of Informatics. He taught a course on talking robots, participated in research seminars on spoken dialogue systems, and worked with the ERICA android robot in the ERATO Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction project. Divesh Lala and Graham Wilcock added a Wikipedia-based talking role for ERICA, with WikiTalk supporting smooth dialogue shifts to related Wikipedia topics, and Julius speech recognition supporting spoken dialogue barge-ins by the human partner while ERICA is speaking.

CityTalk at IJCAI 2018

CityTalk Tokyo 2020

In July 2018, Graham Wilcock demonstrated CityTalk at 27th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2018) in Stockholm. His paper Using a Deep Learning Dialogue Research Toolkit in a Multilingual Multidomain Practical Application was published in the IJCAI 2018 proceedings.

CityTalk at IWSDS 2018

In May 2018, Graham Wilcock demonstrated CityTalk at 9th International Workshop on Spoken Dialogue Systems (IWSDS 2018) in Singapore and presented a paper CityTalk: Robots that talk to tourists and can switch domains during the dialogue.

WikiTalk wins an award at ICSR 2017

In November 2017, WikiTalk won a Special Recognition award for Best Robot Design (Software Category) at 9th International Conference on Social Robotics (ICSR 2017) in Tsukuba, Japan. The award was given to Kristiina Jokinen and Graham Wilcock for their competition entry Next Steps for Social Robots.

Springer book: Dialogues with Social Robots

In February 2017, Dialogues with Social Robots edited by Kristiina Jokinen and Graham Wilcock was published by Springer in the series Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering. The publisher says: This book explores novel aspects of social robotics, spoken dialogue systems, human-robot interaction, spoken language understanding, multimodal communication, and system evaluation. It offers a variety of perspectives on and solutions to the most important questions about advanced techniques for social robots and chat systems. Chapters by leading researchers address key research and development topics in the field of spoken dialogue systems, focusing in particular on three special themes: dialogue state tracking, evaluation of human-robot dialogue in social robotics, and socio-cognitive language processing.

WikiTalk at COLING 2016

Graham Wilcock with a talking robot

In December 2016, Kristiina Jokinen and Graham Wilcock demonstrated WikiTalk at 26th International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2016) in Osaka, Japan. A paper What topic do you want to hear about? A bilingual talking robot using English and Japanese Wikipedias by G. Wilcock, K. Jokinen and S. Yamamoto was published in the COLING 2016 proceedings.

SamiTalk at IWSDS 2016

Sami-speaking robot

In January 2016, Graham Wilcock presented Towards SamiTalk: a Sami-speaking robot linked to Sami Wikipedia at 7th International Workshop on Spoken Dialogue Systems (IWSDS 2016) in Saariselkä, Finland. The conference was organized by the Academy of Finland DigiSami project directed by Kristiina Jokinen.


WikiTalk is basically a talking Wikipedia. You tell the robot what topics you are interested in, and the robot tells you about them using the information from Wikipedia. The robot gets the information directly from Wikpedia, so you get the latest up-to-date information even for rapidly changing topics. Wikipedia information is more trustworthy than some other sources, because it is contimuously validated by a worldwide community of volunteer editors.

WikiTalk anticipates what you will probably want to hear about next and extracts links to related topics in Wikipedia. When you say the name of a related topic, the robot switches to the new topic and starts talking about it. Predicting likely topic shifts like this also helps speech recognition.

WikiTalk is multimodal and multilingual. It integrates face-tracking, nodding and communicative gesturing with speech synthesis and speech recognition, following the CDM Constructive Dialogue Model. The system now works in English, Finnish and Japanese.

Brief history of WikiTalk

WikiTalk was developed without support from University of Helsinki. With no funding for robots, the first version of WikiTalk in 2011 ran on a Pyro (Python robotics) simulator. In 2012 WikiTalk on Nao robots was implemented at Supélec in Metz, France as an international PhD summer school project. A Finnish language localisation for Finnish-speaking robots was made by the Academy of Finland DigiSami project as a step towards SamiTalk, using Nao robots borrowed from SASKY in Sastamala.

Since 2016 WikiTalk has been developed by CDM Interact, a Finnish startup company. A Japanese language localisation for Japanese-speaking robots was made at Doshisha University, Japan. A demo of multilingual WikiTalk with language-switching on a Nao robot was presented at COLING 2016 (International Conference on Computational Linguistics) in Osaka, Japan. In 2017 WikiTalk won an award in Best Robot Design (Software Category) at ICSR 2017 (International Conference on Social Robotics) in Tsukuba, Japan.

In 2019 WikiTalk was used with ERICA the female android robot at Kyoto University, Japan where Graham Wilcock was Visiting Professor. A demo of ERICA and WikiTalk was presented at IJCAI 2019 (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) in Macao, China.


The DigiSami project was part of a wider joint research project funded by the Academy of Finland and the Hungarian Academy of Science, intended to increase the visibility and use of small Fenno-Ugric languages in the digital world by applying language technology to support the development of digital materials. The goal of the Finnish part was to support digital content generation for the Sami languages, focusing mainly on North Sami. The DigiSami project at University of Helsinki investigated how modern language technology and corpus-based linguistic research can contribute to handling the digitalisation challenges faced by small Fenno-Ugric language communities.

DigiSami Corpus

The project collected the DigiSami Corpus of Spoken North Sami language in several North Sami-speaking areas of both Finland and Norway. The spoken dialogues were transcribed and carefully annotated using modern corpus linguistics techniques. The speech materials were made available to colleagues at Aalto University working on speech technology, who began to develop a speech synthesizer and a speech recognizer for North Sami.


The project worked towards SamiTalk, a Sami-speaking robot linked to Sami Wikipedia. The aim was to demonstrate to young Sami speakers that the Sami languages of their grandparents will also play an active part in the digital future. The WikiTalk project had shown that robots can talk about many topics using English Wikipedia. As a step towards SamiTalk, the DigiSami project worked on localisation of spoken dialogue systems and made a Finnish localisation of WikiTalk using Finnish Wikipedia. A SamiTalk demonstration prototype shows a robot talking about the situation of Sami languages in Finland using information from Sami Wikipedia. The robot speaks North Sami, but can only do speech recognition for Finnish as the North Sami speech recognizer was not available.

International Workshop

The project organised the northernmost International Workshop on Spoken Dialogue Systems in Saariselkä, Finland in 2016. The workshop attracted over 50 researchers from Europe, Japan and USA. Revised versions of the workshop papers were collected in Dialogues with Social Robots, edited by Kristiina Jokinen and Graham Wilcock and published by Springer in 2017.

Best Paper Award

The project also worked on multimodal analysis of the videos and annotations in the DigiSami Corpus using machine learning techniques, in collaboration with University of Eastern Finland. This work was recognised by a Best Paper Award at IWSDS 2018 for Enabling Spoken Dialogue Systems for Low-resourced Languages: End-to-end Dialect Recognition for North Sami by Trung Ngo Trong, Kristiina Jokinen and Ville Hautamäki.

Robot Videos

ERICA and WikiTalk

ERICA and WikiTalk (2019)

ERICA the female android robot talks about ancient Greek, robots, artificial intelligence and androids using Wikitalk with English Wikipedia.

CityTalk Tokyo 2020

CityTalk Tokyo 2020 (2018)

The robot tells about hotels and restaurants in Tokyo Waterfront near the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Graham Wilcock with a talking robot

Multilingual WikiTalk (2016)

A multilingual robot talks about Shakespeare in English and Japanese, switching languages on request.

Sami-speaking robot

SamiTalk (2016)

The world’s first Sami-speaking robot talks about the situation of Sami languages in Finland using information from Sami Wikipedia.

Finnish-speaking robot at home

Finnish WikiTalk (2015)

At home with a Finnish-speaking robot who talks fluently about many topics using information from Finnish Wikipedia.

CityTalk Cambridge

CityTalk first demo (2017)

The robot tells about hotels and restaurants in Cambridge using PyDial from University of Cambridge.

MoroTalk Finnish news-reading robot

MoroTalk first demo (2015)

A Finnish-speaking robot tells local news about Tampere city in Finland using online news feeds of the Aamulehti newspaper.

WikiTalk first demo

WikiTalk first demo (2012)

The first demo of WikiTalk on Nao robots at International Summer Workshop on Multimodal Interfaces in Metz, France in 2012.