Invited Speakers of ALTRUIST 2023

Prof. Naomi Fitter

Prof. Naomi Fitter is Assistant Professor at Oregon State University. As part of the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering and the Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems (CoRIS) Institute, her SHARE research group studies socially assistive robotics, haptics, and robots in the arts. Previously, she completed her Ph.D. in the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab under Professor Katherine Kuchenbecker and worked as a postdoctoral scholar with Professor Maja Matarić in the Interaction Lab at the University of Southern California.

Playful Social Robots in Early Motor Interventions and Beyond

As robots appear in more everyday environments, they will have new opportunities to enhance the lives of the people around them. One reason why this potential is exciting is that robots, compared to “non-embodied” technology solutions (such as a phone, smart watch, computer, or AI assistant), have been shown to be more motivating and peer-like. In challenging interaction scenarios such as encouraging physical activity or other healthy habits, this type of clout can make or break the success of a technology-based intervention. To date, my research program has applied and thoroughly investigated one resulting family of assistive robots for early motor interventions in the child-robot interaction play domain. We observed that these robots can successfully teach and reinforce particular types of movement (such as a leg-extension kick that is important for taking one’s first steps), in addition to encouraging more physical activity during free play sessions than other intervention approaches. My ongoing and future research aims to create playful robotic systems to help people live healthier and happier lives in additional intervention scenarios.

Prof. Silvia Rossi

Prof. Silvia Rossi is Associate Professor at Dipartimento di Ingegneria Elettrica e Tecnologie dell’Informazione – DIETI, University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy. She is also Co-chief manager of the PRISCA (Intelligent Robotics and Advanced Cognitive System Projects) lab, coordinator and Principal Investigator of the National Project UPA4SAR “User-centred Profiling and Adaptation for Socially Assistive Robotics”. She received the M.Sc. degree in Physics from University of Naples Federico II, Italy, in 2001, and the Ph.D. in Information and Communication Technologies from the University of Trento, Italy, in 2006. Previously Silvia was research assistant at the Division on Cognitive and Communication Technologies – ITC-irst (Italy), at the institute of Cybernetics E. Caianiello – CNR (Italy), and visiting researcher at the Center for Human-Computer Communication – Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon (USA). Her research interests include Multi-agent Systems, Human-Robot Interaction, Cognitive Architectures and Behavior-based Robotics and User Profiling and Recommender Systems.

Proactive Behavior and Theory of Mind for Behavioral Change

Socially assistive robotics (SARs), aiming to improve the standard of living in modern society through social interactions, find applications in various fields such as hospitals, or support for the elderly. In these application contexts, social robots are designed to interact with people naturally and personally through verbal, nonverbal, or affective modalities. In the field of SARs, robots can provide personalised assistance through monitoring, coaching, encouragement, and motivation towards specific therapeutic goals. Most current robotic systems tend to react to human inputs or after an event has occurred, whereas few ones take the initiative proactively. This talk will provide an introduction on our current projects aiming to investigate how robots could be endowed with adaptive and proactive behaviour in order to predict the users’ needs to support them in assistive tasks. To achieve this goal both the proper perceptual capabilities to infer beliefs, emotions and desires of a user and decision-making ones are necessary components. In particular, the ability to have a Theory of Mind (ToM) representing and reasoning on the users’ mental state as they evolve over time and personalize the robot’s behaviour based on inferred beliefs and intentions.

Dr. Francesco Ferro

Dr. Francesco Ferro, is the CEO and co-founder of PAL Robotics, one of the leading service robotics companies worldwide. PAL Robotics’ mission is to enhance people’s quality of life through service robotics and automation technologies, and the company shares a belief that robots will come to occupy a place in people’s daily lives. Since 2004 Francesco has been working along with the rest of PAL Robotics in the development of state-of-the-art robots especially designed to solve customers’ needs, working on platforms such as TALOS, Kangaroo, TIAGo, ARI and StockBot. He previously received a BSc+MSc degree in Telecommunications Engineering at the Politecnico di Torino (Italy), a Master at ISEN in Lille (France) and an Executive MBA at the University of Barcelona (Spain). Francesco is Executive Director at euRobotics, part of the Board of Directors at ADRA (AI, Data, Robotics Association), and Service Robot Group Chair for IFR (International Federation of Robotics).

PAL Robotics: 20 years of service robotics

An aging population, in addition to shortages in healthcare personnel present major challenges in many societies. Service robots, including social robotics, are one of the technological solutions that have been part of trials and pilots as a tool to assist users in daily life and help them maintain independence. This talk will detail PAL Robotics’ experience in developing Socially Assistive Robots, their successful application in use case scenarios such as hospitals and care homes, and anticipated future developments.

Prof. Antonio Sgorbissa

Prof. Antonio Sgorbissa is Associate Professor at the Università degli Studi of Genova and a teacher in EMARO+, the European Master in Advanced Robotics. He is Coordinator of the H2020 project CARESSES (Culturally Aware Robots and Environmental Sensor Systems for Elderly Support) with 6 EU partners and 3 JP partners ( His research focusses on Cognitive Robotics (knowledge representation, context-awareness, wearable and Ubiquitous Robotics). He has been Principal Investigator in National and EU Projects, including DIONISO (a multidisciplinary effort focusing on ICT for intervention in earthquakes) and WearAmI (a joint effort of the Università degli Studi of Genova and Örebro University focusing on assistive robotics in smart environments). He is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems. Since 2000, he has collaborated with the spin- off company Genova Robot srl for technology transfer in Robotics, and has been awarded 5 patents as an inventor. His research focusses on Cognitive Robotics (knowledge representation, context-awareness, wearable and Ubiquitous Robotics). He is the author of more than 120 articles.

A Cloud System for Diversity-Aware Human-Robot Conversation

We will describe a cloud system designed to allow robots to converse with people by taking into account their diverse needs and characteristics. The system has undergone trials with various populations, including older individuals, middle-school students, and people with spinal cord injuries. The presentation will review past accomplishments, address their limitations, and propose future directions, contextualizing these insights within the framework of the Italian Fit4Med project.

Prof. Agnieszka Wykowska

Professor Agnieszka Wykowska leads the unit S4HRI “Social Cognition in Human-Robot Interaction” at the Italian Institute of Technology (Genoa, Italy), where she is also the Coordinator of CHT (the Center for Human Technologies). At IIT, she is also member of the Board of the Scientific Director. In addition, she is an adjunct professor of Engineering Psychology at the Luleå University of Technology as well as visiting professor at the University of Manchester. She graduated in neuro-cognitive psychology (2006, LMU Munich), obtained PhD in psychology (2008) and the German “Habilitation” (2013) from LMU Munich. In 2016 she was awarded the ERC Starting grant “InStance”: “Intentional Stance for Social Attunement”. She is Editor-in-Chief of IJSR (International Journal of Social Robotics) and Associate Editor of Frontiers in Psychology. She is President of ESCAN (European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience), member of ELLIS (European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems) and core member of Association of ERC Grantees. She is also a delegate to the ERA Forum (European Research Area), representing stakeholder’s group “Individual researchers and innovators”. In her research, she combines cognitive neuroscience methods with human-robot interaction in order to understand the human brain mechanisms in interaction with natural and artificial agents.

Bridging cognitive neuroscience with social robotics to design human-robot interaction

As robots are believed to soon populate human environments, they have received enthusiastic support in the scientific community – from traditional robotics, to research on human- robot interaction. In my lab, we examine human-robot interaction with the methods of cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology.  Based on the lessons learned from our studies with adults, we have developed several experimental protocols for addressing child-robot interaction. More specifically, we examine how various neurocognitive mechanisms, such as cognitive control, joint attention or perspective taking, are evoked in children interacting with a humanoid robot. Of particular focus in our lab is the theme of developing robot-assisted training protocols for neurodevelopmental disorders. In my talk I will present an overview of our approach in human-robot interaction research and subsequently, I will focus on the results from the robot-assisted training for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.