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Robotics: ERC Starting Grant


Sapienza Professor of Computer Engineering Barbara Caputo has received the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for her project on “RoboExNovo Robots Learning About Objects from Externalized Knowledge Sources.”

The aim of the study is to develop the algorithms and theoretical bases that robots require to obtain information directly from the internet in order to carry out a series of actions. The Starting Grant is presented to new talents in global research, whose studies are based in a European country.

“At present, robots are not able to react to unforeseen events in an efficient manner,” explains Barbara Caputo, “They are unable to recognize new objects and understand how to use them or how to interact with them. Robots need to be able to learn how to use an object and how to practice using it. The aim of the project is to create algorithms that can transform knowledge from the web into knowledge representations used in modern robotics.”

The aim of the project is to develop applications for robotic elderly care, assistance to disabled people and home robotics applications in general. The five-year study, which has been granted 1.5 million Euro, will be conducted at the Sapienza Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering ALCOR Laboratories, where since 2013 Barbara Caputo has managed the Visual and Multimodal Applied Learning (VALE) Group.


Barbara Caputo

Graduated in Physics from Sapienza University. In March 2013, she became an Associate Professor at the Sapienza Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering Antonio Ruberti (DIAG). Professor Caputo has worked in prestigious research laboratories in Germany (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg), the United States (Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, CA), Sweden (Royal Institute of Technology) and Switzerland (Idiap – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne).                                                                   

“Applying for the ERC Starting Grant was a courageous choice, verging on the limit of recklessness. When the competition was published, I was seven months pregnant with my second child and the deadline was only a few weeks after my due date,” Professor Caputo tells us. “I confess that I was hesitant, at first; however, I believed so firmly in my idea that in the end I gathered all my courage and got to work. The last weeks were somewhat crazy, between giving birth and breastfeeding the baby, but in the end, I made it with the help of my family, even my older daughter helped in her own way. Considering the story of this award, my children will be honorary members of the group!”


ALCOR Laboratories

DIAG Professor Fiora Pirri founded the ALCOR Laboratory (Vision, Perception and Learning Robotics Lab) in 1998 as a lab for Cognitive Robotics. From the outset, its mission has been to conduct research on visual perception in order to model the acquisition of knowledge by robots. To date, the main activities has focused on  robotic rescue in emergency situations.                                                                                    

The lab has collaborated for many years with the National Fire Department on three European projects: VIEWFINDER (EUFP6), NIFTi (EUFP7 ICT: Natural Human–Robot Cooperation in Dynamic Environments 2010-2014) and TRADR (EUFP7: Long-Term Human-Robot Teaming for Robot-Assisted Disaster Response, 2014-2017), all three projects focus on the use of robots in emergencies.