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Seminar Thursday 19 December 2013 - Francesco Orabona - 14:30 Aula Magna

Title: Adaptation in online learning through dimension-free exponentiated gradient

Speaker: Prof. Francesco Orabona, TTI Chicago, USA

Abstract: As the big data paradigm is gaining momentum, learning algorithms trained through fast stochastic gradient descent methods are becoming the de-facto standard in the industry world. Still, even these simple procedures cannot be used completely "off-the-shelf" because parameters, e.g. the learning rate, has to be properly tuned to the particular problem to achieve fast convergence. The online learning framework is a powerful tool to design fast learning algorithms able to work in both the stochastic and adversarial setting. In this talk I will introduce new advancements in the time-varying regularization framework for online learning, that allows to derive almost parameter-free adaptive algorithms. In particular, I will focus on a new algorithm based on a dimension-free exponentiated gradient. Contrary to the existing online algorithms, it achieves an optimal regret bound, up to logarithmic terms, without any parameter nor any prior knowledge about the optimal solution.

Seminar Thursday 19 December 2013 - Annie Ruimi - 11:00 Room A7

Title: Thread simulations for biomedical applications

Speaker: Annie Ruimi

Abstract: Over the last twenty years, sporadic efforts have been seen to bring computer simulations into the medical field. Large research institutions and training hospitals in the US (i.e. Stanford, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital) have now made simulations a mandatory part of their education but there is still much resistance from the medical profession. Within these efforts, modeling and simulations of organs have received more attention than the modeling of surgical tools. One reason being advanced by medical and health professional is the lack of realistic scenarios portrayed on screen that make it difficult for students to adequately train in various surgical tasks. Among them, suturing is recognized as being particularly challenging to medical school students. To address this problem, we have assembled an international team of scientists and researchers with expertise in engineering, medicine and computer graphics to develop a low-cost, interactive software that will be used by medical school students to train in the tasks of suturing and knotting. The program is funded by Qatar Foundation through its National Priorities Research Program (NPRP). I will give an overview of the many elements of the program and what we have achieved so far.

Speaker's short bio: Annie Ruimi joined Texas A&M University at Qatar in July 2007 as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering after obtaining her Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and was promoted to Assistant Professor in July 2009. Her research uses a combination of theoretical and computational tools to solve problems represented by rod-like structures with applications in medical simulations and drillstring dynamics. She also investigates the relationship between microstructure and material properties to design advanced (or smart) materials for automotive applications. She teaches courses in Statics, Dynamics and Vibrations and Mechanics of Materials. She helped develop a sophisticated experimental set-up for the Rotor Dynamics Branch at NASA Ames Research Center (California) where she acquired experience in large data acquisition and management. She is an international collaborator on a large National Science Foundation (NSF) funding awarded to Texas A&M University (Texas) for the development of an International Institute for Multifunctional Materials for Energy Conversion (IIMEC), that bring together researchers from more than ten countries in the Middle-East, North Africa and the Mediterranean region. Her research is currently funded from the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) managed by Qatar Foundation. She is a life member of Sigma Gamma Tau and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Societies and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Gaze Machine experiments

From November 27th to December 5th, Alcor Lab together with the 'Vision for Robotics' research group of TU Wien, have successfully organized a series of experiments based on the Gaze Machine. The purpose of the experiments was to study the human attention in cluttered indoor environments and in search tasks.

We would especially like to thank all 40 participants for their time and important help!

Participation of ALCOR Lab at the euRobotics Week

On November 28, 2013 our laboratory, as a member of euRobotics aisbl, will participate at the 2013 edition of the euRobotics Week, promoted by euRobotics aisbl (Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif). Robots@DIAG is the title of the event organized by DIAG, Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering Antonio Ruberti and its robotics laboratories. In particular, we will give a presentation of our research activities and afterwards the visitors will have the opportunity to participate in our demonstrations in the lab.

Robots@DIAG program

euRobotics Week Press Release

Gaze Machine experiments - Looking for participants

Alcor Lab together with the 'Vision for Robotics' research group of TU Wien, are organizing a series of experiments based on the Gaze Machine. The experiments, conducted by Ph.D. student Ekaterina Potatova, will take place in Aula B101 and have a duration of about 30 minutes for each participant. If you are willing to participate, please fill in your name and your e-mail address, and indicate the time slot which is most suitable for you in the following Doodle. Your choice will not be visible to others. Participants will be rewarded with a small treat.

Thank you in advance for your precious help!

Seminar Monday 11 November 2013 - Antonis Argyros - 15:00 Aula Magna

Title: Tracking the Motion of Human Hands

Speaker: Antonis Argyros

Abstract: Humans use their hands in most of their everyday life activities. Thus, the development of technical systems that track the 3D position, orientation and full articulation of human hands from markerless visual observations can be of fundamental importance in supporting a number of diverse applications. In this talk, we provide an overview of our work on hand tracking. First, we describe methods for vision-based detection and tracking of hands and fingers in 2D, with emphasis on occlusions handling and illumination invariance. We also demonstrate hand posture recognition techniques and their use in HCI and HRI. Then, we focus on a recently proposed framework for exploiting markerless visual observations to track the 3D position, orientation and full articulation of a human hand that moves in isolation in front of an RGBD camera. We treat this as an optimization problem that is effectively solved using a variant of Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO). Next, we show how the core of the tracking framework has been employed to provide state-of-the-art solutions for problems of even higher dimensionality and complexity, e.g., for tracking two strongly interacting hands or for tracking the state of a complex scene where a hand interacts with several objects. Finally, we demonstrate how the results of hand tracking have been used to recognize human actions and infer human intentions in the context of tabletop object manipulation scenarios.

Speaker's short bio: Antonis Argyros is an Associate Professor at the Computer Science Department, University of Crete and a researcher at the Institute of Computer Science (ICS),  Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) in Heraklion, Crete, Greece. He received a B.Sc. degree in Computer Science (1989) and a M.Sc. degree in Computer Science (1992), both from the Computer Science Department, University of Crete. On July 1996, he completed his PhD on visual motion analysis at the same Department. He has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Computational Vision and Active Perception Laboratory (CVAP) at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Since 1999, as a member of the Computational Vision and Robotics Laboratory (CVRL) of FORTH-ICS, he has been involved in many RTD projects in computer vision, image analysis and robotics. He is an area editor for the Computer Vision and Image Understanding Journal (CVIU), member of the Editorial Board of the IET Image Processing Journal and one of the general chairs of the 11th European Conference in Computer Vision (ECCV'2010, Heraklion, Crete). He is also a faculty member of the Brain and Mind interdisciplinary graduate program and a member of the Strategy Task Group of the European Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM). The research interests of Argyros fall in the areas of computer vision with emphasis on tracking, human gesture and posture recognition, 3D reconstruction and omnidirectional vision. He is also interested in applications of computational vision in the fields of robotics and smart environments.

The Gaze Machine on Tun2U

An article and interview (in Italian) about our participation at the Maker Faire Rome with the Gaze Machine , is published on the Tun2U Web Agency's website.

The article can be found here

Seminar Monday 28 October 2013 - Catherine Pelachaud  - 12:00 Aula Magna

Title: Communicating with Socio-Emotional Agents

Speaker: Catherine Pelachaud

Abstract: In this talk I will present our current work toward endowing virtual agents with socio-emotional capabilities. Through its behaviors, the agent can sustain a conversation as well as show various attitudes and levels of engagement. I will describe methods, based on corpus analysis, crowd-sourcing or motion capture, we are using to enrich its repertoire of multimodal behaviors. These behaviors can be displayed with different qualities and intensities to simulate various communicative intentions and emotional states. We have been developing a platform of humanoid agent able to interact with humans. I will describe the architecture of our platform allowing us to drive these different agents type. These agents, be virtual or physics, can be controlled by two different representation languages, namely Function Markup Language FML that specifies the communicative intentions and emotional states, and Behavior Markup Language BML that describes the multimodal behaviors to be displayed by the agents. Then, I will describe an interactive system of an agent dialoging with human users in an emotionally colored manner.

Speaker's short bio: Catherine Pelachaud is a Director of Research at CNRS in the laboratory LTCI, TELECOM ParisTech. She received her PhD in Computer Graphics at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA in 1991. Her research interest includes embodied conversational agent, nonverbal communication (face, gaze, and gesture), expressive behaviors and socio-emotional agents. She has been involved and is still involved in several European projects related to multimodal communication (EAGLES, IST-ISLE), to believable embodied conversational agents (IST-MagiCster, ILHAIRE, VERVE, REVERIE), emotion (Humaine, CALLAS, SEMAINE, TARDIS) and social behaviors (SSPNet).  She is member of the Humaine Association committee. She is associate editors of several journals among which IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems and Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces. She has co-edited several books on virtual agents and emotion-oriented systems.

Seminar Monday 14 October 2013 - Ales Leonardis - 11:00 Aula Magna

Title: Hierarchical Compositional Representations of Object Structure

Speaker: Ales Leonardis, University of Birmingham, UK

Abstract: Visual categorisation has been an area of intensive research in the vision community for several decades. Ultimately, the goal is to efficiently detect and recognize an increasing number of object classes. The problem entangles three highly interconnected issues: the internal object representation, which should compactly capture the visual variability of objects and generalize well over each class; a means for learning the representation from a set of input images with as little supervision as possible; and an effective inference algorithm that robustly matches the object representation against the image and scales favorably with the number of objects. In this talk I will present our approach which combines a  learned compositional hierarchy, representing (2D) shapes of multiple object classes, and a coarse-to-fine matching scheme that exploits a taxonomy of objects to perform efficient object detection.

NIFTi End User Evaluation Year 4

From September 17th to 27th, members of our lab have been involved, together with other partners, into the activities of the NIFTi Project at the training rescue camp settled by the Italian Firefighters (CNVVF) in Prato, Italy. The NIFTi project is almost drawing to the end and all the team members are working to develop a multi-robot-based system suitable to support both firefighters and rescuers in real Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) actions.

A press release is available for download here.


Related material:

Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco (in Italian)

The Gaze Machine at Maker Faire Rome

The Gaze Machine will be exhibited at the stand of Sapienza University of Rome, along with projects from other departments and laboratories, at the Maker Faire Rome. The Maker Faire is one of the most important exhibitions in the world dedicated to the innovation, creativity and enterprise. For the first time the European Edition will be held in Rome from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th October 2013 at Palazzo dei Congressi.

The official press release of Sapienza University of Rome, can be found here (in English) and here (in Italian).

TAROS 2013: Presentation of our paper ARE: Augmented Reality Environment for Mobile Robots

The 14th Conference on Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems (TAROS 2013) has been held between August 28 and 30 in Oxford, UK. The member of ALCOR Lab and Ph.D student Mario Gianni has presented the poster of the paper ARE: Augmented Reality Environment for Mobile Robots, co-authored with Federico Ferri and Fiora Pirri. The paper abstract is presented below.

Abstract: In this paper we present ARE, an Augmented Reality Environment, with the main purpose of providing cognitive robotics modelers with a development tool for constructing, at real-time, complex planning scenarios for robots, eliminating the need to model the dynamics of both the robot and the real environment as it would be required by whole simulation environments. The framework also builds a world model representation that serves as ground truth for training and validating algorithms for vision, motion planning and control. We demonstrate the application of the AR-based framework for evaluating the capability of the robot to plan safe paths to goal locations in real outdoor scenarios, while the planning scene dynamically changes, being augmented by virtual objects.

NIFTi Joint Exercises 2013 in Prato

From June 3rd to 6th the NIFTi Joint Exercises (NJEx 2013) took place in Prato, Italy at the Provincial Command of the Vigili del Fuoco. Members of our lab have participated at the exercises, together with researchers from the other NIFTi partners, the firefighters, three UGV robots and two UAV quadrotors. The goal was to study human-robot teaming in a scenario where the firefighters are collaborating with the robots in order to find victims in a damaged site, after an earthquake.

A press release is available for download here.


Related press material:





ALCOR Lab has successfully presented its research activities at the open day event OpenDIAG, organized by the Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering Antonio Ruberti. The event took place on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 May, and about 1000 visitors had the opportunity to participate at more than 20 demonstrations held by the research labs, attend the presentations of the study programs as well as career’s talks, and meet with more than 30 companies and the  spin-offs of the department.

A press release of our participation in OpenDIAG, is available for download here.



Discover DIAG and ALCOR Lab at OpenDIAG

The Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering Antonio Ruberti will be opening its doors to prospective students for the first time, during the open day event OpenDIAG. The event will take place on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 May, from 10.00 till 19:00.

The members of ALCOR Lab are inviting everyone to visit the lab and participate at their interactive demonstrations.

More information (in italian) can be found here

ALCOR Lab and NIFTi EU Project at INNOROBO 2013 / ALCOR Lab is now member of euRobotics aisbl

ALCOR Lab and NIFTi EU Project have been successfully exhibited together at the robotics fair INNOROBO 2013 in Lyon, France from March 19th to 21st 2013, along with 130 exhibitors from 14 nationalities. During the INNOROBO event and two floors above its location, the European Robotics Forum 2013 was held. ALCOR Lab was approved by the General Assembly as an euRobotics aisbl member and has participated in the election of the new Board of Directors.

A press release of our participation in INNOROBO and the European Robotics Forum 2013, is available for download here.




Photo credits AFJV

Photo credits AFJV

NIFTi Year 3 Summary

NIFTi has already completed its Year 3. During this year NIFTi moved to full 3D environment models, fusing laser data and camera input. An in-field rescuer is now included in the human-robot team and there were performed extensive field experiments, studies and end user evaluations.

A 4-page summary of the progress NIFTi made this year, is available for download here.

ALCOR Lab and NIFTi EU Project exhibiting at INNOROBO 2013

ALCOR Lab and NIFTI EU Project will be exhibiting together at the robotics fair INNOROBO 2013 in Lyon, France from March 19th to 21st 2013. In our booth we will show the tracked mobile robot UGV (named TALOS), our wearable device Gaze Machine and we will introduce our recent research activity. We are also going to present the NIFTi EU Project, its results and its new plans. You can visit our exhibition webpage and of course our booth during the exhibition!


ALCOR Lab on online exhibition

ALCOR Lab is participating in the online exhibition platform with three stands in the two different exhibitions of Automation and Robotics. You can visit our stand in the e-Halls of Universities & Research, Mobile Robots Research and AI, IT and Robot Vision.



NIFTi on Swiss Public Radio

An article (in German) about our deployment in Emilia-Romagna region, hit by the earthquake and a 30 minutes piece about our end-user evaluation experiences in Dortmund which went on air today on Swiss Public Radio, are online on the radio's website.

The article and the radio piece can be found here

ICPRAM 2013: Presentation of our paper Discriminative Sequence Back-constrained GP-LVM for MOCAP based Action Recognition

The 2nd International Conference on Pattern Recognition Applications and Methods (ICPRAM 2013) will be held between February 15 and 18 in Barcelona, Spain. We are going to participate at the conference while the member of ALCOR Lab and Ph.D student Valsamis Ntouskos wiil present the paper Discriminative Sequence Back-constrained GP-LVM for MOCAP based Action Recognition, co-authored with Panagiotis Papadakis and Fiora Pirri. The paper abstract is presented below.

Abstract: In this paper we address the problem of human action recognition within Motion Capture sequences. We introduce a method based on Gaussian Process Latent Variable Models and Alignment Kernels. We build a new discriminative latent variable model with back-constraints induced by the similarity of the original sequences. We compare the proposed method with a standard sequence classification method based on Dynamic Time Warping and with the recently introduced V-GPDS model which is able to model highly dimensional dynamical systems. The proposed methodology exhibits high performance even for datasets that have not been manually preprocessed while it further allows fast inference by exploiting the back constraints.

Seminar Monday 7 January 2013 - Paolo Favaro - 14:30 Aula Magna

Title: The Light Field Camera: Extended Depth of Field, Aliasing and Superresolution

Speaker: Paolo Favaro, University of Bern

Abstract: Portable light field cameras have demonstrated capabilities beyond conventional cameras. In a single snapshot, they enable digital image refocusing, i.e., the ability to change the camera focus after taking the snapshot, and 3D reconstruction. We show that they also achieve a larger depth of field than conventional cameras while maintaining the ability to reconstruct detail at high resolution. More interestingly, we show that their depth of field is essentially inverted compared to regular cameras. Crucial to the success of the light field camera is the way it samples the light field, trading off spatial vs. angular resolution, and how aliasing affects the light field. We present a novel algorithm that estimates a full resolution sharp image and a full resolution depth map from a single input light field image. The algorithm is formulated in a variational framework and it is based on novel image priors designed for light field images. We demonstrate the algorithm on synthetic and real images captured with our own light field camera, and show that it can outperform other computational camera systems.

Speaker's short bio: Paolo Favaro received the Laurea degree (BSc+MSc) from Università di Padova, Italy in 1999, and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002 and 2003 respectively. He was a postdoctoral researcher in the computer science department of the University of California, Los Angeles and subsequently in Cambridge University, UK. Between 2004 and 2006 he worked in medical imaging at Siemens Corporate Research, Princeton, USA. From 2006 to 2011 he was Lecturer and then Reader at Heriot-Watt University and Honorary Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, UK. In 2012 he became full professor at Universität Bern, Switzerland. His research interests are in computer vision, computational photography, machine learning, signal and image processing, estimation theory, inverse problems and variational techniques. He is also a member of the IEEE Society.

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