Giorgio Metta

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Italy

Peripersonal space and margin of safety around the body: learning visuo-tactile associations in a humanoid robot with artificial skin

In this talk I discuss the development of a large area electronic skin and its application to create a biologically motivated model of peripersonal space in a humanoid robot. Guided by the present understanding of the neurophysiology of the fronto-parietal system, we developed a computational model inspired by the receptive fields of polymodal neurons identified, for example, in brain areas F4 and VIP. The experiments on the iCub humanoid robot show that the peripersonal space representation i) can be learned efficiently and in real-time via a simple interaction between the robot and the environment, ii) can lead to the generation of behaviors like avoidance and reaching, and iii) can contribute to the understanding the biological principle of motor equivalence. More specifically, with respect to i) the present model contributes to hypothesizing a learning mechanisms for peripersonal space. In relation to point ii) we show how a relatively simple controller can exploit the learned receptive fields to generate either avoidance or reaching of an incoming stimulus and for iii) we show how the robot can select arbitrary body parts as the controlled end-point of an avoidance or reaching movement.

Giorgio Metta is the Scientific Director of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT). He holds a MSc cum laude (1994) and PhD (2000) in electronic engineering both from the University of Genoa. From 2001 to 2002, Giorgio was postdoctoral associate at the MIT AI-Lab. He was previously with the University of Genoa and from 2012 to 2019 Professor of Cognitive Robotics at the University of Plymouth (UK). He was member of the board of directors of euRobotics aisbl, the European reference organization for robotics research. Giorgio Metta served as Vice Scientific Director of IIT from 2016 to 2019. He coordinated IIT’s participation into two of the Ministry of Economic Development Competence Centers for Industry 4.0 (ARTES4.0, START4.0). He was one of the three Italian representatives at the 2018 G7 forum on Artificial Intelligence and, more recently, one of the authors of the Italian Strategic Agenda on AI. Giorgio coordinated the development of the iCub robot for more than a decade making it de facto the reference platform for research in embodied AI. Currently, there are more than 40 robots reaching laboratories as far as Japan, China, Singapore, Germany, Spain, UK and the United States. Giorgio Metta research activities are in the fields of biologically motivated and humanoid robotics and, in particular, in developing humanoid robots that can adapt and learn from experience. Giorgio Metta is author of more than 300 scientific publications. He has been working as principal investigator and research scientist in about a dozen international research as well as industrial projects.

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