PhD in Cognitive Developmental Robotics
Flowers Team
INRIA Bordeaux Sud-Ouest
351 Cours de la Libération
33405 Talence Cedex


Research Interests

Keywords: Cognitive Developmental Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science, Child Development, Life-Long Learning, Intrinsic Motivation, Imitation Learning, Interactive Learning, Active Learning.

Interested in robotics, artificial intelligence and cognitive science, I try to bridge these 3 aspects in my work, and started working in cognitive developmental robotics. I have special interest in linking research of machine learning, robotic embodiment, child development psychology and neuroscience. I also explore possibilities to make robots adapt to their physical and social environments.
This is why I strive to answer the questions: Can a robot learn like a child? How do children learn? How do human beings or other species learn? Can a robot learn through social interaction with humans?

Current Research

Keywords: Intrinsic Motivation, Goal-oriented Exploration, Data-collection Strategy, Active Learning, Interactive Learning, Learning by Demonstration, Programming by Demonstration, Imitation Learning, Mimicking, Emulation.

I am currently the leader of the experiment KERAAL, funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 601116 as part of the ECHORD++ (The European Coordination Hub for Open Robotics Development) project. Our consortium made up of roboticists and doctors propose to develop a robot coach for rehabilitation exercises.

My research focuses on developing a strategic learner that can learn to achieve several outcomes with several strategies. In particular, I study the combination of autonomous exploration and imitation learning strategies to build an interactive learner that can explore its environment both via interactive learning and goal-babbling. It learns at the same time when, who and what to actively imitate from several available teachers, and it learns when not to use social guidance but use active goal-oriented self-exploration. +

Previous Projects

Keywords: Face-swapper, Face Tracking, Video Processing, Theory of Mind, Self-Recognition, Obstacle Avoidance

  • During my Master Thesis in the Department of Adaptative Machine Systems, Faculty of Engineering, Osaka University I studied the modelling of the development process of self-consciousness in childhood between the ages of 2 months and 2 years. As social interaction depends greatly on self-knowledge, we investigated the onset of self-consciousness between the time a baby knows how his body is situated in respect to the environment at 2 months of age, and the time he successfully passes the rouge mirror test at 24 months. +
  • During my internship at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Stanford University, I completed a project for making the PUMA arm avoid moving obstacles. The summary is only available in French: Comportement réactif pour l'évitement d'obstacles en Robotique : application à un bras manipulateur.
  • I took part in 2008-2009 in the play “I, worker” casting 2 human actors and 2 robot actors. The programming and management of the robot was realised by our group of 3 students, and was led by Pr. Ishiguro and Pr. Hirata. You can find information on the theater company or from the press release (eg. bbc).
  • I also took part in robotic competitions such as:
    • Robocup and Japan Open in 2008 with the JEAP team. I was in charge of designing the movements for walking and kicking, as well as programming the behaviour for the football game.
    • Coupe de la Robotique in 2006 with the robotics club of Ecole Polytechnique. I was the secretary-treasurer of our team of 10, and in charge of programming the trajectory and behaviour of the robot we built from scratch to play at a golf game at the French national robotics challenge.
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Last updated on 2017/02/10
Sao Mai Nguyen