What first attracted you to the field of Artificial Intelligence?
When I was a kid I assembled a small robot with my father, with pieces arriving by weekly instalments to our local kiosk. It felt very exciting to see that thing moving based on a program I made.
When I was studying my Bachelor of Science (in Computer Science) I joined a Robocup@Home team, where I learned more about robotics.
From there, I decided to study an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, because I wanted robots to become more autonomous, and more useful.
Is there a scientist in history, or today, who is your biggest inspiration/role model? And why?
I have had the luck of working with many great scientists, starting from supervisors I had in my BSc and MSc (Professors Cecilio Angulo and Sergio Escalera), to my PhD (Dr Guillem Alenyà and Professor Carme Torras).
I'm also inspired by the colleagues and collaborators I've had since, such as Dr Michael Cashmore, Daniele Magazzeni, Oya Celiktutan, Rita Borgo, Matteo Leonetti, and Andrew Coles. I've learned a lot from all of them.
Tell us about something you are working on at the moment - what is exciting about it?
I'm currently looking into ways to extend robot autonomy in the context of a task (i.e., doing household chores). This means the robots can run on their own for longer.
When the robot analyses the task that they have to perform, the robot comes up with potential goals to achieve this. We're trying to find smart ways of getting the robot choose the goals that are interesting. Later on, I want to use this research to explain the robot decisions to the user, as we'd all want to know why our robot is doing what it is doing!
Please give us an example of AI enhancing everyday life in 2023 that you particularly like.
From robotic vacuum cleaners to navigation apps, there are many examples of applications that (hopefully) make our lives a bit easier. One of my favourites is real-time language translation, which allows people speaking completely different languages to understand each other.
More recent systems based on Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, are now getting a lot of attention. I see a huge potential there in robotics applications, however I see them particularly useful to as a knowledge base for the robots to leverage.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about AI?
That people believe it's way more advanced than it actually is. We've had many impressive advances in the recent years, but these systems are not as intelligent as you'd think (or that sci-fi movies inspire.) I feel this is particularly evident in the case of robotics, where people participating in research experiments sometimes expect way more than they can do.