Dr Graham Mann
Bsc. MCog.Sci. PhD SMIEEE

Senior Lecturer

About me

I teach and do scientific research in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics and human factors engineering. I am head of the Applied Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the School of Engineering and Information Technology. I’ve studied psychology, computer science and engineering for over forty years. During this time I’ve designed and built many artificial intelligence programs and robots, including the BEELINE natural language understanding agent, a walking biped (Tarbaby), an innovative floor cleaning robot, a hexapod called Mascot, the CG-FGP system for computing with emotions and an experimental Programming by Demonstration learning program for eye-hand manipulation in robot workcell.

I teach the undergraduate Intelligent Systems and Human-Computer Interaction units, and the postgraduate Human Factors in IT unit. I am the Chair of the Honours program within the School.

I currently supervise three postgraduate students, one working on a new classification system for integrating web services and a experiment in generating natural language for an automated pyschotherapy agent. Another PhD student of mine recently completed his thesis in robotics – so I am now looking for other keen robotics students.

I’m a Board member of the Mars Society Australia, a citizen-science body involved in engineering design, experimental research and field work aimed at a future human exploration mission to Mars. This is a registered research body with the CSIRO, holds an annual research conference and organises expeditions to Marslike sites in outback Australia. It runs a number of technology development projects. I serve as the manager of Project Marsupial, which is building a prototype pressurised vehicle for human use on the red planet. I’m currently working with a postgraduate student at Murdoch on the development of a drone capable of flying on Mars.

Teaching area

I currently teach:

BSC150 What is Science – undergraduate breath unit on the philosophy of science, taken by all Bachelor of Science students.

ICT319 Intelligent Systems – undergraduate artificial intelligence unit. This is also taught as an articulation in Singapore.

ICT396 Human Interface Design – undergraduate topic about basics of design and construction of interfaces for computers and computerised machines. This is also taught as an articulation in Singapore.

ICT576 Honours in Information Technology Literature Review – Honours unit requiring students to develop a complete literature review as part of their thesis.

ICT612 Human Factors in Information Technology – a collection of advanced readings in interface design, social impact of advanced technologies, including a “future interface” design project.

Research areas

I’m interested in all kinds of artificial intelligence and many aspects of cognitive psychology, but I’ve had to restrict myself to only a few sub-areas to avoid spreading myself too thinly!


Conceptual models for natural language understanding.  A long-time interest in and contributor to the literature on conceptual structures, especially for language comprehension, has stayed with me. I have built up an an elaborate software system based on conceptual graphs that can read paragraph- length texts, perform simple commonsense reasoning, and produce simple textual output. Recently, I have used this as the basis for experiments computing with and using language about emotions.


Student teleoperates experimental robot

Teleoperated field robots for maintenance tasks.         Research students and I have  pursued the idea that teleoperation of working field robots should give way to more and better automation if the machines are to reach their full potential. One experiment in the Applied AI Lab concerns the Corobot, a small wheeled machine which has been modified to allow it to serve as a test platform for our ideas about adjustable automation. These include the novel idea of ‘assigned responsibility’ in which a goal-accomplishment plan forms a shared representation of a task between a robot and its human operator and on which an explicit work contract clearly assigned responsibility for tasks between the human and automated functions within the robot. This implies a special new kind of interface which is designed to reduce mental stress and free the operator from the need for continuous supervision of the work.


Mascot hexapodal robot and portable control stationMascot is a field robot which which I have been developing for several years. This six-legger continues my interest in legged mobililty as an alternative to wheels, especially in very rugged terrain and of applying robots to the task of maintence at remote, difficult or dangerous work sites. There are a good many issues concerning the operation and practicality of such a machine and how well it can be remotely controlled, even before we come to the question of automating the machine so it can become more independent of direct human supervision. Needs a good student to take an interest in it and develop it further!


Four of the events at the Arkaroola Robot Challenge, July 2014


Mars analog studies. As part of along-standing nvolvement with space research, our lab has  participated in a number of field expeditions and simulations concerning human exploration on Mars. For example, in 2014 Nicolas Small and I ran the field test program for the Mars Society Australia’s Arkaroola Robot Challenge. Six prototype “astronaut assistant” robots were put through their paces in standardised engineering tests and realistic surface operations. Our  lab is likely to do more technological development in this particular application, and not just robots.



I am the manager of the Mars Society’s Project Marsupial which is currently building the Starchaser rover vehicle, a prototype of a pressurised vehicle for human transport on Mars. Once completed, it will be brought to Arkaroola for simulated Mars exploration experiments.

Current projects

Currently, I’m working on the following projects:

Artist's conception the finished Murdoch Drone Workshop

UAVs for Fire Monitoring and Control. Murdoch University is investing heavily in drone technology. I am working on a number of projects aiming to develop this technology for use in scientific applications, such as air pollution monitoring, solar PV array temperature measurements and precision agriculture. The School of Engineering & Information Technology now owns several multirotor aircraft, and I hold a RePL license to fly them. Myself and other pilots are awaiting university-wide certification from CASA before we are legally permitted to fly, which we hope to have in place shortly. I am working on refurbishing a building on the eastern campus to use as a hanger and development workshop for our drones. The Peel Regional Development authority is looking into the possibility of a “drone hub” – a centre for commercial drone development – possibly based at Murdoch’s Peel campus.


NXT Robot. I am currently building a new robot designed to try out some of the latest ideas in teleoperation and machine learning. As with other robots I have developed, this is designed for maintenance of equipment in the field. If it develops as expected, the first experiments will test the new Visual Teach & Repeat method for getting the mobile machine to target locations after only one manually guided trip there. Later experiments will try to extend this one-trial learning to simple manipulation tasks, using a pair of purpose built human-like arms.


Semantic and conceptual analysis


Natural Language Generation for Automated Psychotherapist.  In work with DIT student Beena Kishore, I find myself returning to the field of natural language processing after being out of the game for many years. Beena is developing sophisticated methods of natural language generation for an automated pyschotherapeutic agent, which can respond to both the conceptual content of utterances and the emotional state of the patient.


Redesign of Starchaser pressurised vehicle prototype


Prototype Pressurised Vehicle for Human Exploration of MarsI am currently the manager of project to build a prototype pressurised vehicle for Mars exploration called Starchaser. Essentially a land-going spacecraft, such a vehicle faces a number of design challenges, some of which can only be properly resolved by experimental development and testing in realistic enviroments, such as the deserts of Australia. Accordingly, the prototype vehicle, now nearing completion in Tasmania, will be made available for realistic simulated sorties at Marslike sites as organised by the Mars Society Australia.

Awards and grants

2010 Murdoch Research Capacity Fund (with G. Bell) 07177 “Building A Cross-Disciplinary Applied Artificial Intelligence Group”.
This $27,000 grant has established and equipped the Applied Artificial Intelligence Laboratory within the School of Engineering and Information Technology.

2003 ARC Linkage Grant (with A. Turk & D. Varan) LE0347194 “Interactive Television Audience Research Laboratory: Infrastructure, Equipment”.
This $411,000 grant established the Audience Lab at ITRI, by providing for major equipment purchase installation and testing.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

I currently supervise two postgraduate students:

Beena Kishore
A Natural Language Generation System for Patient Theory’   The aim of this work is to create a language generation system that can produce well-formed English sentences make appropriate responses in therapeutic conversations dealing with human experiences of some complexity. In particular, the system will be capable of dealing with expressions with emotive content, a neglected aspect in this field. It will develop the notion of affective-model-based adaptation of high-level expressive forms to select and customise the content from a conceptual graph knowledgebase by an emotion tracking model and a biographical profile of the patient.

Jeremy Nunn
‘Towards a Unified Methodology for Supporting the Integration of Data Sources for use in Web Applications’ This work aims to create a unified top-down data integration methodology instantiated with a framework that can aid developers in their integration process. It can act as a scaffold to support the specific technical approach chosen for the integration process. The framework will assist in the integration of data sources to support web application builders. The thesis presents the rationale for the need for the framework based on an examination of the range of applications, associated data sources and the range of potential solutions. The framework is evaluated using several case studies.

Recent Graduates

My PhD student Nicolas Small graduated in 2016, with a thesis entitledAssigned Responsibility: An Architecture for Mixed Control Robot Teleoperation’.  This develops a new model for the adjustable teleoperation of robots, based on an explicit allocation of tasks, shared between the human operator and the robot, guided by their respective skills and capabilities. In order to accomplish this, every task the robot is requested to perform needs to be broken down into simple sub-tasks, which then can be allocated. These ideas will be formally tested in experiments using a real service robot and operators in simulated maintenance task scenarios.


My PhD student Richard Adams graduated in 2013, with a thesis entitled ‘The Advanced Data Acquisition Model (ADAM): A Process Model for Digital Forensic Practice’ Evidence relating to computer crime is significantly different from that associated with the more “traditional” crimes for which there are well-established standards, procedures and models. This thesis develops a new process model for digital data acquisition that addresses both the practical needs of practitioners working in different areas of the field and the expectation of law courts for a formal description of the process undertaken to acquire digital evidence.



  • Mann, G., (2006),Design Construction and Test Operation of an Analog,In: Pressurised Planetary Exploration Vehicle, American Astronautical Society (Univelt, Inc.), pages 237 to 252.
  • Mann, G., Persaud, R., Clarke, J., (2005),Expedition One: A Mars Analog Research Station 30-Day Mission,In: Martian Expedition Planning, American Astronautical Society (Univelt, Inc.), pages 53 to 89.
  • Mann, G., Wood, N., Clarke, J., Piechocinski, S., Bamsey, M., Laing, J., (2005),Comparative Field Test of Pressured Rover Prototypes,In: Martian Expedition Planning, American Astronautical Society (Univelt, Inc.), pages 313 to 327.


  • West, M., Clarke, J., Laing, J., Willson, D., Waldie, J., Murphy, G., Thomas, M., Mann, G., (2010), Testing technologies and strategies for exploration in Australian Mars analogues: A review, Planetary and Space Science, 58, 4, pages 658 - 670.
  • Mann, G., Bernsteins, I., (2008), Digital television, personal video recorders and media, automation, data and entertainment convergence in the home, International Journal of Arts and Technology, 1, 2, pages 198 - 214.
  • Mann, G., Wood, N., Clarke, J., Piechocinski, S., Laing, J., Bamsey, M., (2004), Comparative Field Test of Pressurised Rover, British Interplanetary Society Journal: the scientific space journal, 57, 1, pages 135 - 143.
  • Mann, G., Clarke, J., Gostin, V., (2004), Surveying for mars Analogue Research Sites in the Central Australian Deserts, Australian Geographical Studies, 42, , pages 116 - 124.
  • Mann, G., Wood, N., Clarke, J., Piechocinski, S., Bamsey, M., Laing, J., (2004), Comparative field tests of pressurised rover prototypes, British Interplanetary Society Journal: the scientific space journal, 57, , pages 975 - 979.


  • Mann, G., Small, N., Lee, K., Clarke, J., Sheh, R., (2015),Standarized Field Testing of Assistant Robots in a Mars-Like Environment,In: Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems 2015.
  • Lee, K., Small, N., Mann, G., (2015),Adaptive Planning for Distributed Systems using Goal Accomplishment Tracking,In: Australasian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing (AusPDC 2015).
  • Hobbs, S., Clarke, J., Mann, G., (2015),Field Testing Marsobot, a Mars Society Australia Robotics Project.,In: Australian Space Research Conference.
  • Small, N., Mann, G., Lee, K., (2013),Goal Accomplishment Tracking for Automatic Supervision of Plan Execution,In: Australasian Conference on Robotics and Automation (ACRA).
  • Mann, G., Small, N., (2012),Opportunities for Enhanced Robot Control Along the Adjustable Autonomy Scale,In: 5th International Human System Interaction Conference.
  • Mann, G., Bhamik, A., (2011),A Hexapodal Robot for Maintenance Operations at a Future Mars Base,In: 11th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2011).
  • Mann, G., (2010),A Machine That Daydreams,In: 2nd International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Entertainment Computing Symposium (ECS) (2010).
  • Mann, G., (2008),Quantitative Evaluation of Human-Robot Options for Maintenance Tasks during Analogue Surface Operations,In: 8th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2008).
  • Boddington, R., Hobbs, V., Mann, G., (2008),Validating digital evidence for legal argument,In: 6th Australian Digital Forensics Conference (2008).
  • Clarke, J., Mann, G., Willson, D., (2008),Crewed Vehicles for Mars Exploration - A Potential User's Guide,In: 8th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2008).
  • Mann, G., (2007),The Low Cost Manufacture of High Technology Machines,In: 7th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2007).
  • Mann, G., Bernsteins, I., (2007),Digital television, Personal Video Recorders and Convergence in the Australian Home,In: 2nd International Conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts (DIMEA) (2007).
  • Mann, G., (2005),Mars Exploration Mobility within Safety Constraints,In: 5th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2005).
  • Lamont, O., Mann, G., (2005),Generalising Power of a Learned Hierarchical Hidden Markov Model,In: 8th IASTED International Conference on Intelligent Systems and Control.
  • Mann, G., (2005),A Practical Astronautical Laboratory at an Australian Secondary School,In: 5th National Space Society of Australia (NSSA) Australian Space Science Conference (ASSC) (2005).
  • Mann, G., Clarke, J., (2004),First Comparative Field Test of Pressurised Rover Prototypes,In: 11th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2011).
  • Mann, G., (2004),Trials and Tribulations of the Starchaser Marsupial Rover,In: 4th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC) (2004).
  • Mann, G., Lamont, O., (2003),A Unified Stochastic Architecture for Spoken Dialogue Systems,In: 16th Australian Conference on Artificial Intelligence.
  • Mann, G., (2002),Design, construction and operations plan for the Marsupial rover,In: The 2nd Australian Mars Exploration Conference.
  • Clarke, J., Mann, G., (2002),Jarntimarra-1: Selecting an Australian Mars Analogue Research Site,In: The 2nd Australian Mars Exploration Conference.