Research in AMARSi focuses on three main areas: biology, robotics and software methods. Seven research subjects (or Work Packages) are tightly integrated.

Human Motor Primitives - Work Package 1

Humans are an extraordinary example of autonomous systems with multiple degrees of freedom, compliant mechanics, and rich and adaptive motor skills. This work package aims at grounding the development of a novel robot architecture on the human motor control and cognitive architecture and at providing new fundamental and theoretical insights into its organisation.

Leading institute: Fondazione Santa Lucia

Contact person: Dr. Andrea d'Avella


Compliant Systems - Work Package 2

Design, realisation and testing of a new generation of robotic platforms actuated by compliant electromechanical movers. Mechatronic actuation groups are designed with stiffness close to those found in biological systems. Objectives:

  • Integrate new compliant actuators into the humanoid iCub and the quadruped robot Oncilla
  • Provide compliance in simulations of iCub, Cheetah 
  • Develop appropriate joint level control strategies that will allow the effective control of the joint motion and stiffness 

Leading institute: Italian Institute of Technology

Contact person: Prof. Darwin Caldwell


Morphological Computation - Work Package 3


In the context of robotics, the term “morphological computation” usually indicates the employment of the body as an active component in signal processing and in achieving a set of desired behaviors in general. Many studies have reported that this concept makes us control complex system such as compliant robot easily. However, a general framework for the description of morphological computations is lacking. The goals of this work-package are to build formal description of a broad variety of compliant robotic structures, to identify “extended” motor primitives in compliant systems that in addition to neural circuitry take into account the morphology of the body, and to analyze the effects of morphology on stability and on the ability to adapt to new variants of already learned tasks.

Leading institute: University of Zurich - Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Contact person: Prof. Rolf Pfeifer


Adaptive Modules - Work Package 4


The objective of this work package is to design the building blocks of the complete hierarchical control architecture. The building blocks, the motor primitives, will be implemented as dynamical systems and should exhibit a set of interesting properties such as the ability to produce discrete and periodic motions,  and the possibility to be modulated in real time. Furthermore they should be suitable for learning (i.e. have open parameters that can be adjusted) and for being combined in multiple ways (e.g through superimposition and sequencing) in order to generate more complex movements. More specifically, the goals of his WP are therefore to explore the various options for designing adaptive modules using dynamical systems (both discrete and rhythmic movements),  to provide mathematical tools to analyze stability, and to provide adaptive modules as building blocks for the complete architecture and demonstrate simple locomotion and reaching skills based on a minimal number of modules.

Leading institute: EPFL

Contact person: Prof. Auke Ijspeert


Learning - Work Package 5


This work package researches novel learning algorithms which arise from the context of rich motor skills and the hard learning problem introduced in the experimental scenarios. The research in this work package is however of a more theoretical nature and the dissemination of the results will happen to the broader machine learning community. WP6 combines the results from this WP5 in an architecture which will be used in the actual robotic experiments. The following objectives apply:

  • Development of new learning algorithms and the redesign of existing learning algorithms for recurrent neural networks, especially exploiting reservoir computing methods.
  • Integration of different learning algorithms in complex modular control architectures.
  • Development of learning algorithms that operate in interaction with a human caretaker, by scaffolding and imitation.
  • Development of cognitive-level learning paradigms supporting agent autonomy, especially for autonomous discovery and meta-learning.

Leading institute: Graz University of Technology

Contact person: Prof. Wolfgang Maass


Architectures - Work package 6

The purpose of the "architectures" workpackage is to find ways to join the modules and mechanisms into comprehensive motor behavior control architectures. This can certainly not be achieved by a mere adding up of parts. A number of fundamental questions need to be resolved concerning the nature of top-down vs. bottom-up interactions between modules; the representations within modules and the communication/transformations between modules of world and body features, goals, rewards and control actions; interactions between learning mechanisms and more. We will structure the research in this WP by progressing through an evolutionary sequence of architectures, each of which lends itself to the design of a “complete Iguana” (to use a famous phrase of Rodney Brooks), rising in level of cognitive autonomy and flexibility.

Leading institute: Jacobs University Bremen

Contact person: Prof. Herbert Jaeger


Robotic Experimentation - Work package 7

The main objectives of the Robotic Experimentation is to transfer the scientific innovations from other work packages into a software architecture facilitating research on rich motor skills both within the project and within the scientific community at large. For that methodological, theoretical and technological challenges from a software engineering and robotic control architecture viewpoint have to be investigated.

The realization o the finding will lead to a layered component architecture and a corresponding meta-model for the endowment of rich motor skills including high-level cognitive abilities for robotic experimentation. The developed software architecture and computational models will be proven in full body robot systems like the i-Cub and Cheetah in complex real-world tasks like crawling up a sofa and in smooth interaction with humans. We will provide feedback to other work packages about the feasibility of the developed computational models from an architecture engineering and robotic experimentation viewpoint and develop and apply evaluation methods based on human perception and cognition of motion.

Leading institute: Bielefeld University

Contact person: Prof. Jochen Steil


Dissemination and Training - Work package 8

The global goal of the WP is to assure widest possible dissemination of scientific results in the research community, to the general public, and in industry. Cooperation with related projects will also amplify the impact of AMARSi. Dissemination is further detailed in section B.3.3, the major objectives are:

  • Publish highly rated scientific works.
  • provide open source software for simulators including compliant iCub and Cheetah robots and a framework for motion generation architectures.
  • provide blueprints of quadrupled robot Cheetah to the public.
  • demonstrate usefulness of results to industry and SME by dedicated workshop, exhibition, and fair appearances to guide implementation in future cognitive robots.
  • support public understanding of science by participation in science festivals, press and media activities, and Internet distribution of video about of robotic experimentation.
  • establish and reinforce long lasting collaborations and train high profile researchers with multidisciplinary expertise.

Leading institute:University of Tuebingen

Contact person: Prof. Martin Giese


Management and Coordination - Work package 9

Objectives of the management include the smooth and efficient organization of the project work in order to maximize scientific and technological impact. The concrete targets include:

  • Coordination of the administrative and financial implementation, coordination of the scientific work and progress monitoring.
  • Risk assessment, preparation and implementation of contingency plans.
  • Contact with the European Commission in constructive cooperation.
  • Cetworking and cooperation with related European projects.
  • Monitoring of achievements against the work plan including milestones and deliverables.
  • Internal evaluation and reporting to the European Commission.

Leading institute: Bielefeld University

Contact person: Prof. Jochen Steil 






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