- Description of the Research Group +
The driving theme of the Intelligent Robots and Systems Group is wide in scope. Its members approach complex systems from a holistic standpoint, rather than focusing on some of the subsystems. The topic of cooperation (among agents and/or robots, among robots and humans) arises naturally from this viewpoint, and is currently the group major research topic overall. Other currently significant research topics are distributed and decentralized systems and human-robot (many-to-may) interaction.
Our distinctive feature is that we bring together people with a common background on systems theory, but different approaches to modeling, analysis and synthesis of intelligent systems, mainly coming from:
The group has also contributed with novel theoretical results in some of its areas of interest, e.g., supervision and modeling of (multi-)robot task plans using Petri nets, asynchronous event-driven POMDPs, scalable multi-robot cooperative perception based on particle filters, and queuing theory, to name but a few.
Internationalization is a key factor for the group. A considerable percentage of our MSc and PhD students, as well as of our Post-Doctoral fellows, comes usually from abroad. We have been or are currently involved in several European, ESA and ITER projects, including the Coordination of two FP7 projects. Group members have been involved in different ways with IST International Partnership programs, such as IST/EPFL Joint Doctoral Initiative (now partially supported by an FCT Doctoral Program), MIT-Portugal and CMU-Portugal.
- Main achievements +
- Structure of the Research Group +
The Intelligent Robots and Systems Group has a relatively small number of permanent staff, with a few more post-doctoral fellows who are also integrated members of the research unit. Therefore, its management structure can be kept simple: one coordinator and a scientific board composed of all the PhD holders. The board members are frequently requested to provide their views on relevant decisions at the level of the workplan and the vision of the group on research for upcoming years, as well as about financial and budgetary issues.
The group will keep having a web page listing its members, projects, publications and research activities in general. Weekly meetings will join all its members, mostly in the form of seminars presented by students and integrated members who report on their research work and advances, but also periodically to discuss strategic issues.
An hierarchical organization of Integrated Members > Doctoral Students > Master Students will be pursued, where the former supervise theses and coordinate participation in R&D projects, the doctoral students develop research that pushes the state of the art on the group's topics of interest, and help supervising Master students, who focus mostly on the implementation of concepts, developed within the frame of the doctoral theses, to realistic settings. This goes in line with the group's objectives of balancing innovative research that merges theory and applications.
The involvement of all integrated group members in these activities (student supervision, project coordination, consultancy, R&D contracts with companies) will be strongly encouraged. A share of the group overheads with projects its members are involved in (especially contracts with industry and EU projects) will be used to sustain promising research activities that are not yet funded and other miscellaneous activities.
As the need for testing R&D novel results in more complex, realistic and technically sophisticated platforms is continuously increasing, the group will keep as an important objective to have a solid team of research engineers that help developing and maintaining hardware and software. Among others, the group and ISR/LARSyS will have soon available a test bed for domestic robots (mockup of an apartment), and four robots designed to interact with children in hospitals, while keeping and extending the ISRoboNet (IP camera network, wirelessly networked with mobile robots), and existing robots (e.g., RAPOSA NG, CoBot, OmniSocRob, Pioneer). When necessary, the group will recur to external services for professional development of research robots and technology transfer, such as those provided by its spinoff companies.
The group will nominate an industrial liaison member that will be in charge of seeking contracts with national and international industry, so as to promote technology transfer through visits to companies, invitation to entrepreneurs to visit ISR/LARSyS and visits of group researchers to companies with high potential for collaboration (both end-users and technology developers).
- Objectives of the Research Group +
The objectives of the IRSg in this period will be to increase:
Students and post-docs growth will include seeking to increase the current internationalization level of the group, taking advantage of international partnership programs (IST/EPFL, CMU-Portugal, MIT-Portugal) and of its portfolio of international links and alumni teaching in foreign universities.
The involvement in EC and ESA projects is a natural extension of the current situation, motivated by the positive outcomes of international visibility resulting from the collaboration with top research groups and an increasing interest in extending past and current Space-related research activities of the group, as a natural scenario of application for some of its research developments (e.g., satellite and spacecraft GNC, planetary rovers). The continuation of the involvement in ITER Remote Handling, where the group has reached a prominent visibility and relevance, will be pursued.
Increasing the number of publications in top journals, especially per integrated member, has been a continuous endeavor of the group in past years, and will be reinforced in the 2015-20 period.
The collaboration of group members in R&D contracts with national companies and end-users is considered a very relevant activity for the group, due to their societal impact and contribution for the economic progress of Portugal and Europe, but should be kept at a level that balances societal contributions with the need to pursue more fundamental research activities.
The group has been nurturing inter-disciplinary collaborations, namely in areas such as bio-inspired swarm robotics (with systems biologists from the Inst. Gulbenkian de Ciência), institutional approach to coordination of collective robotic systems (with social scientists and philosophers of science), decision-making under uncertainty (with neuroscience researchers from Inst. de Medicina Molecular and Champalimaud Found.) or cognitive robots. Thus, inter-disciplinarity is a promising area of research expansion, also in collaboration with other groups from LARSyS.
The current key research areas of the IRS group (multi-robot and networked robot systems, decision-making under uncertainty, discrete-event systems, human-robot interaction) will be strengthened through a two-fold strategy: