Faculty Exchange Program
Getting a Holistic View of a Top University
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
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
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
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.
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.
Success Stories from Faculty Exchange Members >>