- Description of the Thematic Line +
MAIN SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVES
This thematic area aims to foster a new generation of systems that interact routinely with humans in different application contexts, including manufacturing, homes, hospitals and public spaces. The research will be conducted in coordination with large international programs and companies to identify new business opportunities in the area of Cognitive Robots and Systems.
Current trends in robotics and automation aim at moving robots and other assistive devices from controlled industrial and laboratory environments to more general and unstructured settings with larger degrees of uncertainty, often assisting humans on the execution of joint tasks at home, in hospitals and offices, during search and rescue operations, in space missions, and in flexible agricultural and/or industrial scenarios. CogROS aims at putting together the competences of several LaRSYS groups to address open scientific challenges with important societal and economic impacts.
Past and ongoing research lines and contracted projects have been addressing some the aforementioned scientific challenges and applications:
(C1) Cognitive companion robots and systems that interact with humans in natural way, augmenting the human abilities and providing assistance. Particularly relevant domains of application are the needs of an ageing population in Europe, education and entertainment.
(C2) Service robot systems - including cooperative surveillance in large areas using teams of robots and cameras for enhanced security of people and goods; technologies for assisting the elderly and/or handicapped at home, education and entertainment for children in hospitals, advanced manufacturing, thus addressing industrial and service robotics;
(C3) Field robotic systems - including assistance in search and rescue missions, space exploration, agriculture and mining, remote handling and tele-operation of robots for manipulation of dangerous products;
(C4) Advanced human-robot interaction devices and methods for improved (natural) collaboration and assistance is an application area on its own but also an enabler for the previous three challenges.
End-users for these application areas with whom different levels of collaboration exist already are the First Responders (Civil Protection), Vasco da Gama and Almada shoppings, Lisbon Portuguese Oncological Institute, Garcia da Orta Hospital, ITER - International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ANA - Aeroportos de Portugal and E-Nova.
All these applications areas involve complex human work due to the variability of work practices, the richness and ambiguity of the information available, and also the collaborative nature of some activities. These are challenges that provide opportunities for both developing cognitive systems and tackling the usability and human factors, which can translate into potentially innovative future living and working environments.
All groups involved in CogROS have an established research track record and host the necessary infrastructures to develop the underlying experimental work in these applications, but extending current results can only be addressed through this joint multidisciplinary effort.
FROM SYNERGIES TO OPPORTUNITIES
The participant groups will have access to sophisticated testbeds and facilities that will afford researchers with cutting edge experimental conditions. Some examples of the aforementioned infrastructures are:
+ iCub: the most sophisticated (in terms of degrees of freedom) open-source humanoid robot worldwide (www.icub.org) - to be used for experiments in vision, perception, manipulation, HRI and learning.
+ Modern, high resolution gaze/motion tracking systems
+ ISRobotNet: a network of IP cameras and robots spread over the 3 floors of ISR, for research on networked robot systems, decision-making, cooperative perception and activity recognition.
+ RoCKIn domestic robot testbed, an apartment mockup that will be used on research concerning domestic service robots interacting with humans.
+ M-ITI Interaction Arena: an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) system; a set of tangible and embedded interaction systems; and biometric and physiological assessment equipment's.
(a) International RD&I opportunities
The CogROS challenges are fully aligned with major international efforts where we envision to strengthen/potentiate the participation of LARSyS:
+ ISR is a member of euRobotics aisbl, an international non-profit association for industrial and academic stakeholders in European robotics.
+ The HORIZON 2020 program calls/priorities (in all pillars).
+ The Robot companion FET Flagship Project Proposal that, although not yet funded, is continuing the development of its research roadmap and new funding sources
+ The European Institute of innovation and Technology (EIT) will have calls for Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) in "healthy ageing" and "advanced manufacturing".
Also illustrating the timeliness of the proposed research and application areas is the project recently announced by Google to use robotic technologies in offices and electronic industries.
All participating groups have an established reputation in their research areas and a vast experience of working in large EU projects, with nearly 5M¤ of funding: RoCKIn (coordinators), MOnarCH (coordinators), POETICON++, HANDLE, ITER CPRHS/CTS, ROBOSOM, FIRST-MM, DICO(RE)2S, URUS, ROBOTCUB, CONTACT.
We will also coordinate our work with the FCT International Doctoral School on Robotics, Brain and Cognition, which is coordinated by researchers in CogROS.
(b) Industrial and innovation context
We will monitor business opportunities for transferring the CogROS technologies into new products or services with economic and societal impact in work environments. Over the years, LARSYS has already spawn off several technological companies in these areas:
+ idMind: Developed the search and rescue robot RAPOSA and the SIGA robots for the Madrid's Banco Santander headquarters.
+ Observit: Developed video surveillance systems for Portugal Telecom, Banco de Portugal, Portuguese Air Force, Brisa Highways Systems and several shopping centers.
+ Reverse: Developed 3D modeling technology with active illumination and video cameras for the moulding industry. for product design and manufacturing.
+ Albatroz: Developed a LiDAR system that has inspected 105,000Km of power lines in Portugal, Spain and France, over the last 5 years.
+ SelfTech: Received the 1st prize in the INNOROBO 2013 (largest European exhibition on service robotics) Call for Startups.
Ongoing collaborations exist with companies such as TEKEVER (UAVs), DEIMOS Engenharia (space technologies), Horários do Funchal (public transportation), GMV (space GNC, rover navigation), Innovisoft, Wow Systems, EDP, Microsoft, IBM, Zon Multimedia, Portugal Telecom, Logica and Novabase.
- Structure of the Thematic Line +
COMPETENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
While it is open to interested researchers at LARSYS the backbone of the CogROS thematic area consists of a set of groups that have been conducting research in related areas.
+ (ISR-IRSGroup) Intelligent Robots and Systems Group
The group approaches, through long-standing international collaborations, large-scale systems, merging AI concepts with formal approaches that stem from Systems and Control Theory and from Operations Research. The main research topics are cooperative systems (of agents and/or robots and/or humans and/or sensors), decentralized/distributed systems and HRI.
Key contributions to CogROS: sequential decision-making under uncertainty, cooperative perception, human-robot symbiotic interaction and adjustable autonomy using head-mount devices.
+ (ISR-VisLab) Computer and Robot Vision lab
The Vislab has an international reputation for research in robotics, computer vision and biologically inspired systems, with an involvement in more than 12 EU Projects in the last decade and collaborations established across Europe, USA and Asia. The research topics include vision, sensory-motor coordination, cognition, machine learning and surveillance.
Key contributions to CogROS the robot companion aspects, including perception and learning, video surveillance and human behavior characterization from video.
+ (M-ITI) Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute
M-ITI embraces a cognitive systems approach for handling the interaction design issues and challenges that are related to building novel working environments based on robotics and VR. It has successfully partnered with a wide range of regional and national entities, including both public (e.g. the regional hospital) and private (e.g. software companies, service companies, the tourism industry) institutions
Key contributions to CogROS: development of interaction tools between robots/computers and humans.
+ (IN+) "Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research
IN+ conducts research in policy analysis, through multidisciplinary activities, namely in terms of science, technology and industry policy formulation and the need to secure sustainable development.
Key contributions to CogROS: analyze business opportunities for the developed technologies and identify needs from the industry related to the thematic area research plan.
PLANNED ACTIVITIES AND COORDINATION
The following activities will be promoted to develop the area research agenda:
The coordination structure is quite lean and relies on the work of the contributing groups, that have the responsibility of maintaining their experimental platforms, personnel and research staff. The coordination structure ensures monitoring the research plan and promotes the regular contact between the involved groups.
The coordination will be accomplished by the Thematic Area Coordinator (TAC) with the assistance of the Management Board (MB).
The Coordinator is in charge of the overall coordination and of ensuring the adequate usage of resources and communication among all research teams. The MB is composed by the TAC and by a member of each group, and will assist the coordinator. Decisions will be taken by consensus and the coordinator has the ultimate responsibility with respect to the LARSYS top management.
- Objectives of the Thematic Line +
The novel challenges addressed concern the way assistive robot systems must perceive and interact with the world and humans, requiring new paradigms for:
The research in the CogROS area will often rely on inter-disciplinarity with areas other than computer engineering or computer science, mainly the neurosciences (natural interaction with humans will result of better understanding the operation of the brain) and the social sciences (developing NRS based on models of social behavior will naturally lead to human-like societal behaviors).NRS address systems which are often heterogeneous, such as teams of aerial (e.g., quadcopters) and land robots (for surveillance, search and rescue), or static sensors (cameras, microphones, RF-ID) networked with sensors and actuators carried by mobile robots. On a theoretical perspective, our goal will involve the understanding of how robotic and virtual reality technologies are changing cognitive work and how workers perform their activities. Supported by the continuous advances in pervasive technology, the workplace configuration is pushed beyond linear logic and physical boundaries. This means that workers' experience is becoming more trans-mediated. The traditional boundaries of bodily and face-to-face workplaces dissolves. Instead, novel forms of work and collaboration emerge where synchronous and asynchronous interactions occur at different physical and digital levels. For example, for the next many years it will be increasingly common for the people of the EU to work in new kinds of workplaces (people work sometimes at home, sometimes in the office, other times during trips), supplied by a strong use of evolving blends and merges of smart technologies (new forms of Skypes, Hangouts, social networks, audio-video conferences, telepresence-avatars, chats, cloud services, location-based services, and more). This increasingly trans-mediated character of workplaces and support technologies put on a trial well-known and proven work analysis methods as well as the design of the work processes and their interactive tools.