Faculty Exchange Program 

Getting a Holistic View of a Top University

 /uploadedImages/people/faculty_exchange/manuel marques ISR.jpg  A symbiotic environment, in which robots are aware of their perceptual, physical, and reasoning limitations and proactively ask for help from humans, was what Manuel Marques – assistant researcher at the Institute for Systems and Robotics of the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade de Lisboa (ISR-IST/UL) – found when he arrived to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), to take part in the Faculty Exchange Program offered by the CMU Portugal Program. 

Between September and December 2014, the Portuguese researcher was at CMU’s Computer Science department, hosted by professor Manuela Veloso research group, called CORAL, which focuses on the development and study of autonomous agents that “Collaborate, Observe, Reason, Act, and Learn”. At CORAL, Manuel Marques had the opportunity to participate in the group’s weekly meetings, which were attended by all members, including undergraduate, master, and Ph.D. students, as well as a postdoctoral fellows. “For me, this was an interesting way of getting to know what these people are doing, and an opportunity for me to present some of my work as well,” Manuel Marques stated. 

When Robots Say “Hello Human”  

The stay at CMU was “mostly research-based, and it was a fundamental learning experience for me as a robotics researcher. We were able to address a different research project, and we developed a method to detect when a person approaches an autonomous mobilerobot platform equipped with a depth camera, such as a Kinect.” The detection algorithm and implementation were successfully tested on the CoBot robots, developed by the members of CORAL.    

Working together with the CORAL research group was a “very gratifying experience,”. During the stay “we developed a method to detect the approaching of a person to an autonomous mobile robot platform equipped with a depth camera, such as a Kinect.” The detection algorithm and implementation was successfully tested on the CoBot robots. “The method, tested in different human approaches, enables the robot to initiate an interaction with an approaching human in the natural way, such as saying ‘Hello Human’,” explains Manuel Marques. “That is very rewarding,” the researcher admits. 

While at CMU, Manuel Marques was also invited by José Moura, professor at CMU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department and director of the CMU Portugal Program at CMU, to participate in the weekly meeting of his research group. There, Manuel Marques also presented some of his most recent research and interacted with graduate students. In both groups, “I realized that these periodic meetings and discussions are fundamental for the members to share ideas,” he says. 

No Ordinary Feat 

Attending classes of the graduate course on Planning, Execution and Learning, and various seminars hosted by the various departments of the School of Computer Science, in particular those on Machine Learning, Computer Science, of the Robotics Institute (RI) and Vision and Autonomous System Center (VASC), was also a “wonderful learning experience because I was able to improve my knowledge on how these areas apply to the robotics field,” the researcher explains. 

“All this allowed me to get a holistic view of a top university and I’m really proud of participating in the Program,” he said.  

Manuel Marques completed his undergraduate degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. at Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade de Lisboa in Electrical and Computer Engineering, in 2005, 2007 and 2011, respectively.

February 2015

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The Faculty Exchange Program is offered by the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program and it allows academics from Portuguese universities to spend at least one term working in research and education at Carnegie Mellon, experiencing the culture of a top university in the United States. Carnegie Mellon professors are also given the opportunity to spend time in Portugal to engage in teaching and research activities with local higher education institutions and research labs. 

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