- Welcome to the APRIL ITN -

About A.P.R.I.L

APRIL (Applications of Personal Robotics for Interaction and Learning) is the first Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Industrial Doctorate (ITN-EID) to train the next generation of researchers and engineers for the emerging field of personal robotics. APRIL is the result of the internationally leading, strategic synergies of Plymouth University’s Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS) and A-Lab of the industry partner SoftBank Robotics (Aldebaran). ESRs students will further benefit from secondments and specialised complementary training in six associate partners sites from industry, academia and robot user groups. The EID strategically adopts a key entrepreneurial ethos with a unique Coaching Programme for a tailored Individual Skills Development Plan, which will equip PhD students with a radical cross-sector and interdisciplinary skill- and mind-set. This combines research on developmental and social cognitive systems, together with industry-led hands-on experiments on the application of human-robot interaction and assistive systems.


"Meet some of partners"

Plymouth University

The Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS) of Plymouth University is one of the leading international groups in the area of human-robot interaction, cognitive systems, developmental robotics, and computational neuroscience. The CRNS currently hosts over 30 PhD students and 10 postdoctoral researchers, including many Marie Curie IEF fellows. The CRNS has an outstanding track record of coordination and participation in numerous FP7, UK EPSRC and US projects for a total of over €20m in the last five years, including the coordination of two Marie Curie training networks (ROBOT-DOC ITN and CogNovo IDP).

SoftBank Robotics (Aldebaran)

Since its establishment in 2005, Aldebaran (now SoftBank Robotics) has been driving technology into a new world by designing humanoid robots and has become the worldwide leader in humanoid robotics. SoftBank's robots (NAO, Pepper, Romeo) are used in more than 70 countries in various fields, such as research, education, retail, care, tourism or entertainment. The Artificial Intelligence group (AI Lab) is the fundamental research unit of SoftBank Robotics and focuses on developmental robotics with the goal to make progress in the understanding and modeling of the mechanisms of development and learning in robots.

Associate Partner: SONY

Established in 1988, Sony Computer Science Laboratories Inc has been at the forefront of innovation for decades. The lab seeks to address and affect societal change in fundamental challenges such as sustainability, agriculture and health. CSL has made numerous ground-breaking contributions to fields as diverse as Robotics, Systems Biology, Econophysics and Neuroscience. One field that is currently investigated at Sony CSL is Developmental Artificial Intelligence with a focus on understanding and modeling the emergence of communication in humanoid robots.

Associate Partner: MetraLabs

MetraLabs GmbH Neue Technologien und Systeme is a German SME and produces high-performance mobile robot platforms and complete service robot applications. As one of the first companies in the world MetraLabs has successfully launched service robots that do their job in grocery and DIY stores, shopping centres, fast food restaurants and clean rooms everyday and fully autonomous. With 50 robots on one spot, the company recently realized the presumably largest installation of professional interactive service robots in a shopping mall in Asia. The main fields of application are mobile monitoring, inventory, flexible intra-logistics, mobile service guides as well as mobile robots for research. The company was founded in the environment of and in connection with the Ilmenau University of Technology (Germany) in 2001.

  • Dr. Andreas Bley
  • Dr.-Ing. Christian Martin

Associate Partner: Osaka University

The Department of Adaptive Machine Systems, Graduate School of Engineering, at Osaka University, Japan, is one of the leading laboratories in developmental robotics. Established in 1992, it has been focusing the emergent robotics that seeks for the design principle of robot behaviours through the interaction between the robot and its environment and from developmental principles. This is one of the pioneer world-wide robotics labs to have designed baby robot platforms and studies sensorimotor development in foetus and baby robots.

  • Minoru Asada
  • Yukie Nagai

Associate Partner: Humboldt University of Berlin

The Adaptive Systems Lab, Department of Computer Science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, led by Professor Verena Hafner, has a strong background in sensorimotor interaction and learning in robotics, as well as intuitive human-robot interaction. The Adaptive Systems Lab was also a partner in the FP7 Marie Curie

Associate Partner: Fondazione San Raffaele

Fondazione Centro San Raffaele (FCSR) is a non-profit entity whose mission is the enhancement of basic, translational and clinical research, the studies and the cultural exchanges in the field of biomedical sciences and the health management. FCSR has developed, through a master agreement, a close and actual cooperation with IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital (OSR), one of the leading scientific research institutes in Italy.

  • Alberto Sanna

Associate Partner: Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna

The BioRobotics Institute at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna is an institution aimed at innovative research, education and technological transfer. It is located at the "Polo Sant'Anna Valdera" which also houses an office of the IIT MicroBioRobotics Center and some joint research projects with leading universities in Japan and Korea. The DomoCasa laboratory of Peccioli consists of outdoor and indoor settings and addresses all users such as robot manufacturing, SMEs and companies (service robots: autonomous cars, edutainment robots, assistive robots), robotics and sociology researchers, service providers (health care, waste management, transportation).

  • Paolo Dario
  • Filippo Cavallo


"Our ESR Fellows and Associate Fellows"

Pontus Loviken

Pontus is an Engineering Physics graduate with a master's degree in Complex Adaptive Systems at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. He has a great interest in the subject of developmental robotics and programmed in his master thesis a humanoid robot to independently learn from scratch how to use its body in order to freely move between different positions such as lying down or sitting up. APRIL PhD Project: Schema Development for Sensorimotor Control

Mina Marmpena

Mina is a computer science graduate and attended a master’s program in neuroinformatics at University of Patras, Greece. She has worked as a research assistant in Singapore Institute of Neurotechnology, conducting neuroimaging experimental work and applying complex networks modelling approaches for the study of human creativity. Her research focuses on human and artificial cognition and their interaction. APRIL PhD Project: Emotional Bootstrap for Empathic Communication

Bahar Irfan

Bahar is a mechanical engineering graduate from Bogazici University. She received her master’s degree in computer engineering and worked as teaching and research assistant. She was a member of robotics football team Cerberus in RoboCup, where she worked on motion and behaviour planning. Her research focuses on personal robotics, HRI and manipulation planning. APRIL PhD Project: Social Learning through Contingent Interaction

Alexandre Antunez

Alexandre was born in Lisbon, Portugal, on 6th September 1988. he is a very curious person, with a special interest in robotics and space exploration. He completed his bachelor and master's degree in Aerospace Engineering, in Lisbon, on decision systems and artificial intelligence. His hobbies include video and table-top games, getting lost in unknown places, and discussing any and all ideas. APRIL PhD Project: Grounded Communication for Planning What to Say and What to Do

Oksana Hagen

Oksana Hagen received a joint Erasmus+ M.Sc. degree in Vision and Robotics from the Universities of Burgundy (France), Girona (Spain), and Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, UK) in 2015. Her thesis was focused on multi-object estimation in space-situational awareness context. She was awarded a B.Sc. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from National Chiao Tung University (Taiwan) in 2013. Oksana has a continuous interest towards computer vision and its applications in autonomous systems.

Associate Fellows

Debora Zanatto

Debora graduated at the University of Padua in Clinical Psychology, from 2012 she worked as research assistant at the Department of General Psychology investigating the social role of movement, with both kinematical and fMRI techniques. In 2015 she started a PhD at the University of Plymouth analysing the role of trust in human-robot interaction.

Massimiliano Patacchiola

Massimiliano received a master degree in cognitive science at La Sapienza University (Rome). After the graduation he spent one year at the Laboratory of Artificial Life and Robotics in Rome, and three years in a private company as artificial intelligence specialist.

Associate Fellows

Onshell Relf

Onshell completed his integrated master's course, specialising in cognitive and brain sciences. He is now investigating information processing in the human motor systems using novel robotic and computer paradigms. These experiments are run in conjunction with a range of brain imaging and neuromodulatory techniques.

Andrea Ferrario

Andrea received his BA and MA degrees in Applied Mathematics at the University of Milan (UNIMI). Andrea is currently a PhD candidate in Computational Neuroscience at Plymouth University (PU). His current research activity involves the mathematical and computational modelling of Parkinson’s disease and of the spinal cord of young vertebrates. These projects are carried forward thanks to the supervision of Roman Borisyuk (PU) and Robert-Merrison Hort (PU).

Associate Fellows

Piotr Bogdan

Piotr is a Plymouth University graduate. He finished his Masters of Engineering in Robotics in 2015 and then continues his study on the PhD in Computing program. His focus is on Learning and planning for autonomous systems. His goal is to find emerging hierarchical and temporal representation for reinforcement learning.

Leszek Pecyna

Leszek graduated from Warsaw University of Technology and Ecole Centrale de Nantes on a “European Master on Advance Robotics” program. After that, he was working in Engineering Design Center in Warsaw Institute of Aviation. Apart from robotics Leszek has always been interested in space exploration, he took part in the European Student Earth Orbiter development ESA program. He likes to spend his free time actively. Leszek has started his PhD studies in the field of Cognitive Robotics at the Plymouth University.

Associate Fellows

Nicolas Le Hir

I graduated from Ecole Polytechnique and I did my masters degree at University of Montréal at the intersection of physics and computationnal neuroscience. During my PhD, I am working on the foundations of sensorimotor contingency theory, researching the best mathematical structures to implement it, and in that respect extend the scope of the theory.


"Browse pages (left) to see details of previous and future meetings"

Meeting 1
Kick-off Meeting,
21-22 January 2016Plymouth (UK)

The meeting was dedicated to the establishment of the APRIL EID, the detailed planning of the management and training activities, the implementation of the recruitment strategy, and the first Supervisory Board meeting and Managements Committee’s assemblies.

Day 1: Wednesday 20 January 2016

15:30 - Project introduction (Angelo Cangelosi)
16:00 - SoftBank Robotics (Aldebaran) supervisors’ introduction talks (Nikolas Hemion, Rodolphe Gelin, Michael Garcia-Ortiz, Alban Laflaquière, Angelica Lim)
17:00 - Plymouth supervisors’ introduction talks (Tony Belpaeme, Torbjorn Dahl, Angelo Cangelosi)
17:45 - Deliverables planning (Angelo Cangelosi, Nikolas Hemion)

Day 2: Thursday 21 January 2016

9:00-12:30 - Node Supervisors Training (lead by John Martin)
10:30 - Coffee break
12:30 - Lunch
13:30 - Node Supervisors Training / Project planning
15:30 - Coffee break
16:00 - ESR Project planning
17:00 - Planning of Residential Workshop on Foundations of Personal Robotics

Meeting 2
Residential Workshop
11-13 May 2016, Paris

This residential workshop on "Foundations of Personal Robotics" was the first opportunity where all 5 Early Stage Researchers and the additional 5 Associated-funded PhD fellows met. Students have been given an introduction to the scientific, technological and business foundations of personal and service robotics. This included introductory sessions on the basic scientific and technological issues in human-robot interaction and cognitive robotics. The workshop was also comprise transferable skills and coaching sessions, especially for team building skills development. It also included a first joint Individual Supervisory Team session for the planning of the first draft of the Individual Skills Development Plan.
Please see Programme of the event here.

Meeting 3
Summer School
10-13 July 2016
Hotel Riva del Sole, Cefalù (Italy)

This summer school on "Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Methods" provided students with a series of lectures and hands-on practical lab sessions on research methods and robot technologies. The syllabus included courses/tutorials on general robotics research methods: (1) ethics in experimental research; (2) experimental design; (3) methodologies for experimental robot deployment; (4) data analysis and basic statistics; (5) results description and analyses. The summer school also included the initial training on the robotics platforms NAO, iCub and Peppers, and on machine learning techniques. The summer school has trained participants in the use of methods of trans-disciplinary robotics research: computational and behavioural neuroscience, cognitive modelling, developmental psychology, and developmental linguistics.
Please see final programme with links to speakers' talks and exercise code files of the event.

Meeting 4
Residential Workshop
30 November - 2 December 2016
Plymouth (UK)

During the workshop each student presented his/her project proposal to the whole consortium. The discussion with all workshop participants (both supervisors and students) have provided feedback to the PhD students on the fruitful directions of research and potential methodological and theoretical issues to consider. This constitutes the first formal state of the PhD assessment and progression at Plymouth University. This meeting has also included workshop sessions on hands-on experience on the humanoid robots, e.g. where students can solve small problems on a platform working in groups, in preparation of the later collaboration on the three integration milestones and demos.
Please see Programme of the event here.

Invited Speaker Presentation: Chenguang Yang (Swansea University, UK)
Study of Teleoperation and Skill Transferring on the Baxter Robot Platform.

Gabriella Pizzuto & Ricardo de Azambuja (Plymouth University, UK)
Baxter Workshop Presentation.

Meeting 5
Residential Workshop
8 - 9 June 2017, Paris

Fellows participated in workshops and tutorials/seminars on career development, Intellectual Property Right management, knowledge transfer and patent preparation, companies structures and spinoff formation. These courses were primarily delivered by Aldebaran and the industrial Associate Partners, and by the Research and Innovation staff at Plymouth University. External industrial speakers also included external speakers as financial institutions and venture capitalist investment in R&D and the IP Frontier staff providing commercialisation support to Plymouth University students.
Please see Programme of the event here.

Meeting 6
Summer School
4 – 9 September 2017
Vila Nova de Milfontes (Portugal)

The summer school will focus on human robot interaction, it will be jointly organized with other EU projects (DREAM, L2TOR).

The summer school will have a wide-ranging programme of lectures, discussions and hands-on ateliers on topics such as social signal processing, robotics and autism, child-robot interaction, multi-modal communication, natural language interaction, smart environments, robot assisted therapy, interaction design for robots, tools and technologies, and ethics. The school is for participants who seek a background and hands-on experience in the interdisciplinary science and technology supporting social human-robot interaction.

Interested students need to apply to the summer school, see here for details (deadline 26 April 2017).

Meeting 7
Review meeting
4 - 5 December, Paris

More information will follow soon.


"All our robotics publications and Media"



Cangelosi A., Schlesinger M. (2015). Developmental Robotics: From Babies to Robots. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Bradford Books - (Book web page).


Juan S. Lara, Jonathan Casas, Andres Aguirre, Marcela Munera, Monica Rincon-Roncancio, Bahar Irfan, Emmanuel Senft, Tony Belpaeme, Carlos A. Cifuentes, "Human-Robot Sensor Interface for Cardiac Rehabilitation". In Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR) - (pdf available here).

James Kennedy, Severin Lamaignan, Caroline Montassier, Pauline Lavalade, Bahar Irfan, Fotios Papadopoulos, Emmanuel Senft, Tony Belpaeme, "Child Speech Recognition in Human-Robot Interaction: Evaluations and Recommendations". In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, on 6th March 2017 - (pdf available here).

Pontus Loviken, Nikolas Hemion "Online-Learning and Planning in High Dimensions with Finite Element Goal Babbling". In Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and on Epigenetic Robotics (ICDLE-Epirob) - (pdf available here).

Alexandre Antunes, Giovanni Saponaro, Anthony Morse, Lorenzo Jamone, Jose Santos-Victor, Angelo Cangelosi "Learn, Plan, Remember: A Developmental Robot Architecture for Task Solving". In Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and on Epigenetic Robotics (ICDLE-Epirob) - (pdf available here).

In the News and Media

Article on Pontus Loviken in Goteborgs-Posten, 25 April 2016 (Newspaper web page).

Interview of Pontu Loviken in Sudsvalls Tidning, 2 July 2016 (Newspaper web page).


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