Italian Institute of Tecnology (IIT) (https://www.iit.it/)
Title: Cortical networks for affective communication in human robot interaction
Tutor: Dr. Giuseppe Di Cesare, Dr. Alessandra Sciutti
Social interactions require the ability to evaluate the attitudes of others observing their actions. Humans perform actions with different forms/styles expressing their positive or negative internal state. For example, observing a person that greets us, we may understand if that person is happy or not, or if he/she feels good or not. In future, new generations of robots could be endowed with the capacity to generate these forms of communication, in order to become more comfortable to interact with. To investigate further this form of robotic communication, the project will generate a series of actions of the iCub humanoid robot conveying different attitudes and evaluate their effect on human brain and on behavior during interaction. In particular, using the functional magnetic resonance imaging technique (fMRI), several robotic actions will be presented to healthy participants in order to assess the neural activity involved the observation of these actions. In addition, the adoption of other techniques will be considered, such as tractography, in order to generate virtual connectivity maps of brain structures. The research project will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Parma that is equipped with a 3 Tesla MR scanner. The work will take advantage of an existing software module available on the iCub robot supporting the generation of actions with different properties and will potentially improve it.
The successful candidate will: 1) participate in the generation of iCub robot’s actions characterized by different kinematic features and styles; 2) develop and test cognitive paradigms coupled with cortical and subcortical fMRI recordings; 3) compute brain activity maps from fMRI data.
Degree in Bioengineering, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Robotics, or related disciplines, attitude for problem solving, C++ programming. We expect the candidate to develop skills in signal processing, and computational modelling. Excellent analytical skills (MATLAB) will also be required.
1. Di Cesare G., Gerbella M., Rizzolatti G., (2020). The neural bases of vitality forms. National Science Review; 7, (1) 202–213.
2. Di Cesare, G., Di Dio, C., Marchi, M., & Rizzolatti, G. (2015). Expressing and understanding our internal states and those of others. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U S A, 112(33):10331-5.
3. Vannucci F., Di Cesare G., Rea F., Sandini G., Sciutti A. (2019). A Robot with Style: Can Robotic Attitudes Influence Human Actions? IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, doi: 10.1109/HUMANOIDS.2018.8625004.
Contacts: Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the perspective tutors before they submit their application: [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask]