Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


APRIL Report Summary

Project ID: 674868
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - APRIL (Applications of Personal Robotics for Interaction and Learning)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The aim of personal robotics, as for companies like Aldebaran Robotics and for research at the Plymouth CRNS, is to design companion robots that can live and interact with human users in a very intuitive way. This requires that a robot develops a comprehensive understanding of human beings and appropriately adapts its behaviour to the context. More specifically, adaptive behaviours and learning are critical to accommodate unknown and changing environments, tasks and users, and developmental robotics is one of the most promising approaches to providing such behaviours. Living with its user will enable the robot to learn to understand her needs and style of interaction. The robot’s development of a capability for understanding abstraction and being able to reason on it will further result in a higher level of communication and interaction with its user. Through the novel ESRs’ PhD projects on the design of robot companions with enhanced interaction capabilities, APRIL will contribute to the training of the next generation of researchers with a unique skills set for the growing market of personal robotics, and their applications in robot companions for social and health care, and assistive and education robots.

The APRIL EID objectives to achieve such an innovative scientific, technological and training vision are:

I. To establish the leading EID centre for cross-disciplinary and cross-sectorial training in developmental and social cognitive systems, human-robot interaction and personal robotics. Training and research activities will be organized around the four pillars of Scientific Excellence, Technological Innovation, Future Leaders, and Entrepreneurship.
II. To train doctoral candidates for the development of domain-specific knowledge and skills for an integrative approach to the investigation of five scientific and technological challenges in personal robotics: (i) Sensorimotor schema development; (ii) Emotional bootstrapping; (iii) Contingent interaction; (iv) Grounded communication; (v) Deep learning for abstract reasoning capabilities.
III. To provide hands-on experience of robotics research through access to state of the art platforms including humanoid robots (NAO, Pepper, iCub, Baxter) and mobile robots (Scitos G5).
IV. To use integrated pedagogical approaches allowing doctoral students to acquire multi-methodological and cross-discipline knowledge and skills in humanoid and mobile robotics, AI, machine learning, software and electronic engineering, control theory, and ethics and legal issues.
V. To support doctoral candidates through an innovative Coaching Programme and an Individual Skills Development Plan based on the latest Vitae RDF Planner, to develop complementary transferrable skills and leadership skills and appropriate research career pathways, supporting the transition from taught students to independent researchers and future leaders.
VI. To extend academic training and entrepreneurial skills with extended industrial research training experience at the Aldebaran Robotics industrial beneficiary site (18 months per fellow), and the additional research and secondment opportunities in the associates partners’ site in academia, industry and user groups in Europe, Japan and USA.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first two years of the project, the APRIL consortium hired 5 ESRs. They were all enrolled in the PhD programme of Plymouth University.

During the first 24 months of activities (Jan 2016 - Dec 2017), the APRIL EID organised five training events (i.e. Training Milestones 1-5). Below is a short summary of the event, but see for access to the events’ programme and list of talks and activities.

• Residential Workshop on "Foundations of Personal Robotics" (Paris, May 11-13, 2016) (Training Milestone 1), where all 5 Early Stage Researchers met for the first time for introductory Personal Robotics lectures and tutorials. This included talks from the associate partners (e.g. A. Sanna from San Raffaele, and M. Spranger from Sony Tokyo).
• Summer School "Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Methods" (Cefalu’, 10-13 July 2016) (Training Milestone 2). This provided students with a series of lectures and hands-on practical lab sessions on research methods and robot technologies. It included both talks/tutorials organised by the supervisors, as well as talks from external speakers and associate partners (e.g. M. Asada from Osaka, V. Hafner from Humboldt Berlin, and A. Bleys from MetraLab).
• Residential Workshop on “PhD Proposal” (Plymouth, 30 November - 2 December 2016) (Training Milestone 3), where the 4 ESRs who started in month 5 were able to present their project proposal to the whole consortium and receive feedback.
• Residential Workshop on (Paris, 8-9 June 2017) (Training Milestone 4). The fellows participated in workshops and tutorials/seminars on career development, Intellectual Property Right management, knowledge transfer and patent preparation, companies structures and spinoff formation. These courses were primarily delivered by Softbank company speakers.
• Joint Summer School on Human-Robot Interaction (Vila Nova de Milfontes Portugal, 3-9 September 2017) (Training Milestone 5). The summer school focused on human robot interaction, it was jointly organized between APRIL and other EU projects (DREAM, L2TOR).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The strategic cross-sectorial, entrepreneurship and highly interdisciplinary nature of the APRIL research and training programme endows the PhD students with the knowledge base and skills set to become the future leaders of research and development in the innovation field of personal robotics, thus contributing to their career aspiration and facilitating the impact of their work in such a new field. Below we highlight the immediate and longer-term benefits that the APRIL research and training program and environment will bring to the students and the further benefits of the EID inclusion within a wider international research and training community.

Immediate and longer term benefits to individual researchers. The APRIL training network will provide a unique interdisciplinary research training opportunity for enhancing the career development of early stage researchers in the field of personal robotics and cognitive systems. Students will be supported to achieve scientific and entrepreneurial excellence through the extensive range of training opportunities available within the APRIL programme, and its strong culture of exploration, explanation and exploitation. The structure of the programme will ensure that students gain a broad education across a wide range of disciplines and deep knowledge of a specialist field. In this way they will be better prepared for future careers in which interdisciplinarity and intellectual flexibility are increasingly being seen as crucial factors for success. Their early research experience will provide them with the ability to communicate effectively across disciplines and sectors. In this respect, care will be taken to enhance the communication skills, both spoken and written, of non-native English speakers and to provide them with the necessary support to achieve a mastery of English comparable with that of native speakers.

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