James Finnis

James Finnis

Lecturer in Computer Science

Aberystwyth University


Dr James Finnis is a lecturer in Computer Science at Aberystwyth University. While he is currently teaching-only, his research interests include artificial neuroendocrine and neuromodulatory systems, modulatory neural network architectures, and intelligent robotics (particularly autonomous off-road driving). He spent over 20 years working in the games industry before moving into academia.


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Artificial Endocrine Systems
  • Modulatory Neural Networks


  • PhD in Computer Science, 2020

    Aberystwyth University

  • BSc in Computer Science, 2014

    Aberystwyth University


Supplementary information for students.


Major Project

Monte Carlo simulation example

A demo of a Monte Carlo method for calculating $\pi$.


Introduction to Programming


Programming Using an Object-Oriented Language



PCOT (PanCam Operations Toolkit) is a Python application and library for processing data obtained from the PanCam cameras on the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover.

Off-road driving

Work with Fred Labrosse on autonomous off-road driving.

Rover walking

Is ‘walking’ a useful way of getting around on Mars?


UESMANN is the subject of my recently completed PhD, and is a rather odd kind of artificial neural network which can modulate between multiple behaviours. It is inspired by how neuromodulators change the behaviour of neurons in biology.


Things I’ve built - some for work, some for fun.


A tiny Mars rover.

Cantre’r Gwaelod

A piece of generative music, changing in real time with the weather and the tide.


Making friends in Minecraft


A concatenative language with first-class functions and full lexical closure.


A collection of odd musical instruments.

Welsh language cheat sheet

How to pronounce Welsh on a single A4 page

Recent Publications

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Homeostatic Robot Control Using Simple Neuromodulatory Techniques

A look at how well UESMANN performs in a homeostatic robot problem.

On computable numbers with an application to the AlanTuringproblem

A discussion of how “computable” the Law is, as a formal system, with reference to Turing's own life and times. My …

UESMANN: A feed-forward network capable of learning multiple functions

A brief introduction to the UESMANN network which is further explored in my thesis.

A simple drive load-balancing technique for multi-wheeled planetary rovers

A simple method for balancing motor load in wheeled rovers using a simulation of cytokine mediated allodynia: simply put, when a …

Rover walking: a neuroendocrine controller for switching between rolling and walking locomotion

Comparing two walking gaits with normal rolling on a Mars simulant surface, using leg deployment motors on a rover modelled after the …



Several decades’ experience


Two or three extensive projects

Computer Vision

Ongoing research into off-road autonomous driving using statistical models


Heavily used to analyse data and create graphics in my PhD work and elsewhere


Several extensive projects including my own media management system

Neural Nets

The subject of my PhD thesis, although a rather unusual subset of neural nets (and not deep learning)

3D Graphics and Games

Several decades of console and PC game programming

Embedded systems

Some fairly hefty projects, including a Mars rover with 10 embedded ATMega328 controllers driving 18 motors, an electronic oboe, and a dataglove!




Aberystwyth University

Oct 2019 – Present Aberystwyth, UK

Responsibilities include:

  • Teaching first-year programming skills (Arduino C/C++, Java)
  • Setting and marking Second year assignment (Java)
  • First year personal and professional development tuition

Research Assistant

Aberystwyth University

Sep 2018 – Aug 2019 Aberystwyth, UK
Off-road driving with a large autonomous vehicle using statistical analysis of an unusual colour space incorporating 3D depth data. In association with QinetiQ and DSTL.

Postgraduate study

Aberystwyth University

Sep 2014 – Feb 2020 Aberystwyth, UK
Working towards a PhD in UESMANN, an unusual neuromodulatory system.

Research Assistant (Industrial Year)

Aberystwyth University

Sep 2013 – Aug 2014 Aberystwyth, UK

Working on the EADS-funded ENDOVER project, developing a possible power management option for the ExoMars rover based on an artificial endocrine system.

Testing the viability of robot surveys of Scottish lochs for locating submerged logs for dendrochronological study. Part of the Scot2K project with Dr. Mark Neal in association with Richard Bates at St. Andrews. My responsibility was the development of a monitoring software suite in C++ and Python.


Lead Programmer / Technical Director

Broadsword Interactive

Jan 1996 – Jan 2009 Aberystwyth, UK

Leading the development team in several PC, PS2 and Wii games, including Dance Factory, Dance:UK and Paris-Dakar Rally. Responsibilities included:

  • Team management
  • Design and development of several 3D engines for PC, Wii and PS2.
  • Development of rapid level prototyping systems
  • Development of gameplay code


  • Computer Science Department, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DB
  • MP 1.44, on the first floor of the Physics Building
  • DM Me
  • Chat on Keybase


The information provided on this and other pages by me, James Finnis (jcf12@aber.ac.uk), is under my own personal responsibility and not that of Aberystwyth University. Similarly, any opinions expressed are my own and are in no way to be taken as those of Aberystwyth University.