[robotics-worldwide] PhD Openings in Humanoid Robotics

Nicolas Perrin Nicolas.Perrin at iit.it
Fri Aug 17 07:20:18 PDT 2012


The Humanoids and Human Centred Mechatronics Lab (http://www.iit.it/en/advr-labs/humanoids-a-human-centred-mechatronics/) at the Department of Advanced Robotics in the Italian Institute of Technology IIT (an English language Institute, placed in Genoa) has a number of fully funded PhD openings (starting in January 2013) in the research areas of Humanoid Robotics and Human Centred Mechatronics Systems.  Young scientists holding excellent First/Master degrees in Mechanical / Electrical engineering, computer science, or other related fields are invited to apply for admission. Applicants should be highly motivated and ready to carry out ambitious research programs. They should ideally have strong competencies in one or more of the followings areas: mechanism design, physical system modelling/ rigid body dynamics, robot control, MATLAB and C/C++ programming. Any additional experience in robotics research will be a plus.
The successful candidates will be involved in Research projects funded by the European Union (AMARSI: http://www.amarsi-project.eu/ and SAPHARI: http://www.saphari.eu/). They will interact with several international Research Centres and Universities and will contribute to the development and control of the next generation of Humanoids Robots and Human Centred Mechatronics systems.

Here is the description of three themes centered on walking, stabilization and motion planning for humanoid robots.
For a list of all the themes see Annex A4 at http://www.studenti.unige.it/postlaurea/dottorati/xxviiiciclo/IITen

The deadline for application is September 21, 2012.


Theme 3.10: Haptic exploration for humanoid navigation with a compliant robot
Tutor: Dr Nicolas Perrin, Dr Nikos Tsagarakis

Humans are able to modify their usual strategy for locomotion in order to move in a cluttered environment without any visual information.
The goal of this PhD research program is to perform this difficult task with a compliant humanoid robot. More precisely, we will study the problem of navigation in an unknown environment with a "blind" humanoid robot. This may require haptic exploration with the feet to find flat and stable surfaces, or arm motions to check for the absence of obstacles or on the other hand find safe contacts to increase balance.
The successful candidate will investigate various algorithms and multi-contact planning strategies in order to solve this problem in complicated environments. In a first phase, quasi-static motions might be considered, but trying to maximize the robot speed will ultimately be an objective of prime importance. Because of their increased ability to absorb shocks, it is expected that passively compliant robots can perform blind navigation faster than other robots, and the successful candidate should try to demonstrate this hypothesis.
Experiments will be made on the passively compliant COMAN platform (http://www.iit.it/en/advr-labs/humanoids-a-human-centred-mechatronics/advr-humanoids-projects/compliant-humanoid-platform-coman.html) developed at the Department of Advanced Robotics of the IIT. Solving this complex problem in a robust way is expected to have an impact far beyond the sole application of blind navigation.

Requirements: the ideal candidate should have a degree in Engineering or Computer Science (or equivalent), be highly motivated to work on robotic platforms and have very strong computer programming skills, including experience with C/C++ in the Unix environment. Good writing and communicating skills in English are essential.

For further details concerning this research project, please contact: nicolas.perrin at iit.it  or nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it.




Theme 3.11: Dynamic stabilization of biped robots based on IMU data.

Tutor: Dr Nicolas Perrin, Dr Nikos Tsagarakis

While well-known force/torque control methods can be applied to set a compliant equilibrium configurations for a biped robot whose feet are assumed to remain at a fixed position on the ground. Things are much more complicated when the feet of the robot are expected to move, either because the robot is walking or because large external disturbances might require feet displacements.
The goal of this PhD research program is to study the potential benefit of having an IMU sensor fixed at the robot waist. In a first phase, the successful candidate will design and study control algorithms using IMU feedback for the stabilization of a biped robot whose feet are not expected to move. For example, these control algorithms might only try to enforce a horizontal orientation of the robot waist at all time. The algorithms should be flexible enough to allow extensions in which the feet could move, and might take their inspiration in the simple control algorithms used for the stabilization of Segway PTs. In a second phase, various stepping strategies will indeed be considered and combined with the previously designed control algorithms to obtain a dynamic stabilizer that can perform various tasks such as push recovery or stabilization during walking with potential footstep modifications. Experiments will be made on the COMAN platform (http://www.iit.it/en/advr-labs/humanoids-a-human-centred-mechatronics/advr-humanoids-projects/compliant-humanoid-platform-coman.html) developed at the department of advanced robotics of the IIT.

Requirements: the ideal candidate should have a degree in Engineering or Computer Science (or equivalent), knowledge in dynamics and control, be highly motivated to work on robotic platforms and have strong computer programming skills, including experience with C/C++ in the Unix environment. Good writing and communicating skills in English are essential.

For further details concerning this research project, please contact: nicolas.perrin at iit.it  or nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it.




Theme 3.12: Humanoid walking and motion planning: Walking on uneven terrains, particulate surfaces and terrains with different stiffness properties.

Tutors: Dr Nikos Tsagarakis, Dr Nicolas Perrin

Despite the significant progress made in Humanoid locomotion during the past decade most current humanoids still suffer from major problems related to dynamically equilibrated walking, stable walking and physical interaction with the environment. Looking at Humanoid locomotion developments it can also be observed that most of them have been performed on flat surfaces. This is a very ideal surface property compared to surfaces existing in human environments where stairs, inclined surfaces, small obstacles and even rough surfaces may exist. Up to now, there are only a few effective demonstrations of walking and motion planning in this kind of environments.

A new humanoid robot (http://www.iit.it/en/advr-labs/humanoids-a-human-centred-mechatronics/advr-humanoids-projects/compliant-humanoid-platform-coman.html) has been developed under the European FP7 project AMARSI (htp://www.amarsi-project.eu/). This newly developed robot has compliant joint structures which will eventually enable us to obtain feasible jumping/running characteristics through the use of the natural system dynamics. In addition, it has 6 axis Force/Torque sensors at the ankles and the feet soles are also equipped with 5 point 1-axis force sensors to detect feet contact with the ground. Such a sensory system created on the feet soles will permit exploration of walking on:

a)    Uneven terrains and stepping over obstacles
b)    Particulate solid surfaces consisting of particles of different size and density
c)    Surfaces of different stiffness.

Techniques will be developed to plan the motion and regulate both dynamic equilibrium and body/feet posture in order to achieve walking on uneven surfaces avoiding or stepping on obstacles with variable inclinations, on particulate surfaces such as sand or to pass through surfaces with different stiffness properties. These methods will take into account kinematics/dynamics and self-collision constraints while detection of the terrain properties will be assisted by rich sensory feedback from the feet of the humanoid. In particular, we will explore how to detect rough terrain/obstacle properties such as inclination and stiffness using the contact force sensors located on the sole of the feet. Having determined the rough terrain characteristics, how the balance stability is affected when the robot is on this specific rough terrain will be evaluated and different control and trajectory planning methodologies will be developed to allow the humanoid to pass through different terrains while maintaining stability and balance.

Requirements: the ideal candidate should possess strong background in physical system modeling and control, MATLAB and C/C++ programming.  Knowledge on mechatronics hardware, fundamental robotics and rigid body dynamics is a plus.

For further details concerning this research project, please contact: nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it or nicolas.perrin at iit.it. 


Candidates are encouraged to send their CV prior to application.

Best regards,

Nicolas Perrin

Postdoctoral Researcher
Humanoid & Human Centred Mechatronics Lab

Dept of Advanced Robotics (ADVR)
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT-Genova)
Via Morego 30,Genova 16163, Italy


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