Science and Technology

Two Técnico alumni receive SPR’s Best PhD Thesis Award

The PhD Thesis developed by the Técnico alumni Filipa Correia and Pedro Vicente were awarded by the Portuguese Society of Robotics (SPR).

The Técnico alumni Filipa Correia and Pedro Vicente won the 2022 SPR Best PhD Thesis Award. Exceptionally, there were two winners this year.

Filipa Correia developed her PhD in Computer Science and Engineering. In her thesis titled “Group Intelligence in Social Robots”, she explored “the collaboration and partnership of teams composed of people and social robots. In particular, how can we provide a robotic partner with intelligence to reason about the social aspects of the group”, she explained.

“I used emotional cohesion to design and also to evaluate the behaviours of these robots in board games”, such as “For the Record” and “The Mind”, she adds. “Designing social robots involves creating computational models that enable the robot to create its own interpretation and representation of the social context” in which it is inserted. “I focused my work on groups of at most three elements”, which created new knowledge for the scientific community, said the Técnico alumna. 

Pedro Vicente, PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering, shared “grabbing robust objects are an important, and not yet solved, problem in robotics” that arise, usually, from inaccuracies of models or design. For this reason, it’s critical to give a robot a sense of touch. “When we look at humans, children learn to successfully reach and grab objects during early childhood.

“How can we provide a humanoid robot with the same learning and adaptive capacity of children?” was the starting point of Pedro Vicente’s PhD thesis. The Técnico alumnus focused his research on the use of robot’s vision (cameras) and touch (fingertip sensors). What differentiated his research from the others was the type of model used, in this case inspired by the neuroscientific literature exploring Bayesian estimation methods, which allows to reduce the percentage of error by about 85%. Pedro Vicente adds “a PhD thesis, despite being an individual process, is something that involves other people”, which is why he expresses his gratitude for the collaboration of all those involved in the process.

The award was presented during the 22nd IEEE International Conference on Autonomous Robot Systems and Competitions (ICARSC2022), held in Santa Maria da Feira, from 29th to 30th April 2022.