ANITI Chair on Cognitive and Interactive Robotics

I have been offered the Academic Chair of Cognitive and Interactive Robotics at the Artificial and Natural Intelligence Toulouse Institute (ANITI). The core topic of this chair is to investigate the decisional processes that are needed for a collaborative robot which shares the task and the space with humans.

I have four co-Chairs: Aurélie Clodic , Félix Ingrand , Thierry Siméon and Athur Bit-Monnot.

ANITI, the Artificial and Natural Intelligence Toulouse Institute

The Artificial and Natural Intelligence Toulouse Institute (ANITI) is an Interdisciplinary Institute in Artificial Intelligence (3IA) and has been selected to be one of four institutes spearheading research on AI in France. ANITI, along with the other 3AI institutes, will start operations in autumn 2019.

ANITI is coordinated by the University of Toulouse: Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées within the framework of France's « Investing for the Future – PIA3 » program, with the support of the Occitanie Region, the Toulouse Metropole, and Toulouse Tech Transfer.

Our research topic: A cognitive and interactive robot learner able to achieve long term collaboration and/or assistance in an acceptable, verifiable and transparent manner by its human partners.

The integrative challenge of AI is fully realized in human-robot interaction and more precisely in human-robot collaboration when humans and robots decide and act together and share the space and the task. One key concept appears to be essential, the concept of joint action. To mention some key abilities, successful joint action requires joint attention, mutual manifestness to exhibit and maintain joint intention while refining and achieving a shared task collaboratively in order to facilitate the human partner understanding of the current state, of the robot’s capabilities and predicting upcoming actions.

The scientific challenge here is to devise and build the cognitive and interactive abilities to allow pertinent, transparent, verifiable and legible behaviors for a robot that is able to perform collaborative tasks with a human partner. Such an architecture should integrate an incremental learning system that will allow the robot to acquire new abilities for human-robot collaboration while ensuring transparency, explainability and verifiability of the overall decisional abilities and their evolution over time. Situated multi-modal dialogues should be used as a means to inform the human and ensure coherence. The system will then be evaluated in contexts where it is used to conduct joint action and/or learn or refine abilities with non-specialist users.

Other essential aspects that I have already started and which will be developed within ANITI are:

  • a principled and long-term multi-disciplinary collaborative research with philosophers, development psychologists, ergonomists
  • and a project-based deployment of AI-enabled robotic systems with potential users and mainly therapists as well as manufacturing and service industry.

This research will be conducted in full interaction with the well-known robotics research teams and platforms already available at Toulouse.
We will also seek to extend our current collaboration with development and ergonomic psychology colleagues and with the growing international community around human-robot joint action.

We will also maintain and develop an international multi-disciplinary network around the key concepts of Human-Robot Joint Action and their implementation. Nine international multidisciplinary workshops (chaired by R. Alami and A. Clodic) have been organized regularly since 2014 (

This chair activity is strongly linked to one of the ANITY core tracks (Hybrid Track I: Symbolic to Subsymbolic and back) and to the challenges and objectives defined in the Integrative Program C (Assistants for design, decision and optimized industrial processes). We will aim, in strong interaction within ANITI researchers and at the international level, at building, deploying and evaluating our research program in three set-ups

  1. the autonomous teammate robot that will work in collaboration with human workers (the future cobots in industry)
  2. the cognitive and interactive assistant for frail people (with potential application to assistance and coaching in healthcare applications)
  3. the highly adaptive service robot in public spaces (with potential application to future transport systems).

Teaching topics

  • Decisional issues for robotics
  • Decisional issues or Human-Robot Joint Action and Interaction
  • Human-Aware Task and Motion Planning
  • Theory of Mind for Cognitive and Interactive robots
  • Validation and Verification for Autonomous Systems
  • Evaluation of Assistive and Collaborative robots abilities