Section: Overall Objectives

Highlights of the Year

In April 2013 at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Karlsruhe, Freek Stulp received the “King-Sun Fu Best Paper Award of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics”. As T-RO has on of the highest impact factors, this is considered to be the highest paper prize in robotics. It is the first time this prize has been awarded to an article on machine learning.

The team has announced in october 2013 the open-source release of the Poppy humanoid robot. Poppy is to our knowledge the first humanoid robot in the world to be at the same time open-source (hardware and software) and based on 3D printing techniques. It is based on robust, flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Its development aims at providing an affordable and hackable humanoid robot for science, education, art and geeks. Poppy was initially made for our research project about understanding the role of morphology in biped locomotion, and full-body physical and social interaction in robots and humans. The robot has generated a huge enthusiasm from geeks, academic laboratories, and educational institutions, and within the first two months already 200 beta-testers registered to rebuild their own copy of the robot. Dozens of articles appeared on the internet and printed press, and the Poppy videos was viewed nearly 40k times. Web site: http://www.poppy-project.org .

The Flowers team made major achievements in diffusing science and technology towards the general public. Pierre-Yves Oudeyer published a popular science book entitled "Aux sources de la parole" at Odile Jacob, and was invited to talk about our research on major radio channels (e.g. France Inter, France Culture, France Info). http://www.pyoudeyer.com/AuxSourcesDeLaParole.htm

The team also initiated the development of educational activities in "écoles primaires" and "collèges" to have kids discover robotics and programming, as well as ran experiments in "école primaires" in Aquitaine to test novel educational software to help children learn mathematics, and developped within the KidLearn ADT project. This was achieved thanks to the arrival of Didier Roy, former math teacher in college, in the team.

The Flowers team is now coordinating the European project "Semi-autonomous 3rdHand" (coord. Manuel Lopes). The goal is to develop a semi-autonomous robot assistant that acts as a third hand of a human worker in factories, which may be a transformative technology for industry in the coming years. It aims to elaborate techniques allowing to instruct even by an untrained layman worker, allow for efficient knowledge transfer between tasks and enable a effective collaboration between a human worker with a robot third hand. http://3rdhandrobot.eu

The Flowers team started the work on Intelligent Tutoring Systems. The project Kidlearn is a research project studying how machine learning can be applied to intelligent tutoring systems. It aims at developing methodologies and software which adaptively personalize sequences of learning activities to the particularities of each individual student. First experiments were realized in elementary schools of Région Aquitaine, where 6-7 year old kids learnt elements of mathematics with our software. https://flowers.inria.fr/research/kidlearn/

An associated team, called Neurocuriosity, was created between Flowers and the Cognitive Neuroscience lab of Jacqueline Gottlieb at Univ. Columbia, NY. The goal of this associated team is to investigate mechanisms of spontaneous exploration and learning in humans by setting up experiments allowing to confirm or falsify predictions made by computational models previously developped by the team. This constitutes a crucial collaboration between developmental robotics and cognitive neuroscience. This joint work already led to a major publication on curiosity and information seeking, in the prestigious Trends in Cognitive Science journal (impact factor: 16.5).[10]

Thomas Cederborgs PhD thesis "A Formal Approach to Social Learning: Exploring Language Acquisition Through Imitation" won the ”ThesAqt” prize, awarded by Region Aquitaine who gives this awards to excellent theses in the region.