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Testimonials

5/4/20

Video Interview

Discipline:

Engineering, Robotics

Marco Pavone

Professor

Professor

Bio:

Prof. Marco Pavone is an Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, where he is the Director of the autonomous Systems Laboratory and Co-Director of the Center for Automotive Research. He received a Laurea degree in IT Engineering from the University of Catania in 2005, and a Ph.D. degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. Before joining Stanford, he was a Research Technologist within the Robotics Section at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His main research interests are in the development of methodologies for the analysis, design, and control of autonomous systems, with an emphasis on self-driving cars, autonomous aerospace vehicles, and future mobility systems.

Interview with:

Host: “The science of robotics has been developing gradually since the second half of the last century, but in recent years we are witnessing an acceleration with decisive implications also in our daily lives.  What are the centers of excellence in North America?“ 


Guest: “Interest and research activities in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence have experienced significant fluctuations over the past few decades. We are currently in a period of rapid new developments and significant investments, thanks to astonishing advancements in software and hardware for robotics, along with new potential applications (for example, self-driving cars). North America has been at the forefront of this new wave of robotics, with several academic centers in the United States (such as MIT, Stanford, CMU, UC Berkeley, University of Washington) and in Canada (for example, University of Toronto). Industry has also developed major research centers in robotics, such as Google, Facebook, and NVIDIA. Italy has a number of major robotics centers as well, which makes robotics a particularly promising field to strengthen collaborations between Italy and North America. “


Host: “ISSNAF, since it was born, has metaphorically represented itself as a bridge crossed in both directions by North American and Italian researchers. How can efforts be directed to achieve this objective, in general in the scientific field and in particular in the fields of robotics and artificial science? “


Guest: “Pursuant to its mission, ISSNAF is currently developing a robotics portal to facilitate interactions and possibly collaborations among robotics researchers operating in North America as well as between those operating in North America and those based in Italy. I am confident that this portal, among other things, will help with identifying researchers with similar or complementary interests and act as a catalyzer for interdisciplinary collaborations.

More specifically, the robotics portal is coordinated by Cinzia Zuffada, Associate Chief Scientist at JPL, Paolo Fiorini, Professor at University of Verona Department of Computer Science, and myself. The portal will gather information about robotics researchers based in Italy and robotics researchers operating in North America and of Italian origin, for example regarding their research interests and activities. The idea is that this portal will facilitate interactions along three main dimensions: joint research opportunities, joint educational activities, and joint entrepreneurial activities. “


Host: “Can you give us some concrete examples? “


Guest: “For example, on the educational side, I am working with the Polytechnic University of Milan to develop a joint course on robot autonomy and self-driving cars, based on a course I developed at Stanford titled “Principles of Robot Autonomy.” This course covers main principles for endowing mobile autonomous robots with perception, planning, and decision-making capabilities. This effort will entail, among other things, an exchange of researchers. In my opinion, joint educational activities are a very effective way to strengthen the “bridge” between Italy and North America, as they lead to an ecosystem of students that can help with establishing and perhaps even leading larger collaboration and entrepreneurial activities. Furthermore, they are a lot of fun! “


Host: “In Italy there is often discussion about the brain drain and in its negative aspect, but perhaps it would be better to talk about the circulation of brains. Do you think that Italian institutions can develop policies so that this phenomenon can lead to positive effects? “


Guest: “The fact that a very large number of Italian researchers operate outside of Italy can been viewed as a great opportunity, as their wealth of knowledge acquired by working at world’s leading institutions could lead to new research and entrepreneurial activities in Italy. The key question is: how do we seize such an opportunity? One possibility, as discussed earlier, is to foster joint educational activities, which might lead to a fast and effective dissemination of ideas between the two continents. Many other strategies are possible and one of the main objectives of the ISSNAF robotics portal is indeed to promote a discussion on this topic and identify the most promising next steps.”

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