I received the bachelor and master degrees in Control Engineering with highest honors from "Sapienza", University of Rome, in 2007 and 2009, respectively. I also received the "Academic Excellence Award" from Sapienza in 2009. In 2013, I received the PhD title in Information and Communication Technologies from University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, with a thesis prepared at INRIA Sophia Antipolis, France, under the supervision of Tarek Hamel, and Claude Samson. The PhD program was jointly with Sapienza, university of Rome, so I also received a PhD in Control Engineering from “Sapienza".
Since August 2017, I am a research scientist leading the Dynamic Interaction Control lab at IIT. Our research can be decomposed into three research axes: bipedal-locomotion, physical-human-robot-interaction, and aerial-humanoid-robotics. The young, dynamic, and highly motivated team is composed of 25 persons.
From 2015 to August 2017 I have been a senior postdoc within the Dynamic Interaction Control Lab. I have beed coordinating four PhD students.
Their domain of expertise is on planning, estimation, and control of floating base systems. Francesco Romano graduated in 2016, and is now a research engineer at Google DeepMind
Francesco Romano Yeshasvi Tirupachuri Marie Charbonneau Gabriele Nava
From 2013 to 2015, I have been a postdoc responsible for the experimental activities associated with the deliverables of CoDyCo, project number: 600716 FP7-ICT-2011.2.1 Cognitive Systems and Robotics. The project has been graded as excellent for four years. Given the success of the experimental activities obtained as an outocme of the project, I have been included in the coordination PI team of the project - see video below, minute 1:55 - coordinating a team of three PhD students.
The research activities of the Dynamic Interaction Control lab can be decomposed into several research axes
The goal of this research axis is to endow the humanoid robot iCub with a degree of bipedal locomotion. Prior to locomotion, the balancing capability is a fundamental property that must be studied and implemented on the robot. The video below show the balancing capacity of iCub.
While the following video shows improved balancing capibilities and preliminary bipedal locomotion of the humanoid robot iCub.
Futuristic robots will be physically interacting with huaman beings. For this, it is fundamental to conceive control algorithms for humanoid robots interacting with a user. The video below shows some of the results in physical-human-robot-interaction control. The user wears a sensorised suit retriving information used by the robot (human joint positions, velocities, and torques). The results were shown during the last year review meeting of the CoDyCo european project.
Some of the effort of my research group is on conceiving a new branch of Robotics implementing a degree of manipulation, and aerial and terrestrial locomotion. Among the infinity of platforms that may implement these three capacities, we have started to investigate the possibility of making a humanoid robot fly. The video below show preliminary results in aerial humanoid robotics. For further information, take a look at either the scientific paper or at the divulgative article that IEEE Spectrum wrote about our work.
In the following video, Richard Browning, test pilot of Gravity Industries, performs a demonstration at the IIT showing the engineering feasibility of the Aerial Humanoid Robotics
The PhD project
During my PhD project, I mainly worked on three domains.
Providing autonomous platforms that may improve the quality of our lives is an active research domain in robotics. Among these platforms, we studied the problem of a mobile robot that must follow a user. This robotic application can be used for several tasks such as shopping carts, butlers that may help for carrying heavy objects, or walking-aid systems. For such mobile platforms to work properly, two basic issues must be dealt with. The first one concerns the detection of the user and the estimation of its position with respect to the robot. The second issue is the design of feedback control laws that maintain a desired relative position between the robot and the user. I actively contributed to providing new solutions to these two issues. For instance, it is well known that position controllers typically used to stabilize the robot with respect to the user work well when the user is located in front of the robot and moves forward. In particular, the so-called jack-knife effect is problematic if the user starts moving backward. I proposed a solution that allows us to stabilize the robot w.r.t. the person with the latter located sideways – i.e. along the wheels’ axis – and also ensures jack-knife effect avoidance. It can be implemented with conventional sensor suite since the control law is position-based, i.e. the relative orientation of the person w.r.t. the robot is not needed to compute the control law.
Accurate chamber pre-fills and plasma density control are primary concerns when dealing with tokamak machines, and I contributed to developing a control strategy for these two concerns. Plasma density evolutions are governed by a set of partial differential equations involving machine’s geometries, electromagnetic fields, atomic physics, and initial conditions of the entire system. This set of equations cannot in general be written in the state-space representation, and this renders almost inapplicable most of the classical control methods. We proposed to take a different route by considering a linear, autonomous, model for the so-called averaged line plasma density. Then, the control designed was performed on this model by applying a nonlinear PID with a classical anti-wind up. The chamber pre-fill control is achieved analogously. The whole system has been implemented using the real-rime framework MARTe, coded in C++.
2017 Finalist, Kuka innovation award, Co-aware team.
2015 Most interesting research topics, Premio Sapio per la ricerca e l’innovazine, Total submissions: 141, selected for publication on "DA, per la ricerca e l’innovazione". Title: "Tu, robot.". Online at http://www.daonline.info/pagine/45.pdf, p. 38.
2010 Vinci Program Grant, travel support grant, from “Université Franco Italienne”.
2009 Academic Excellence, from “Sapienza” University of Rome.
2004 Research project award, at the Triennial Electronics Exhibit, Technical Industrial State Institute “G. Vallauri”, Velletri (Italy).
1998 Tullio Fazi Prize, distinguished student award, from Rotary International 2080.