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USFD: project meeting 17-19 January 2012

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When gen 17, 2012 09:00 to
gen 19, 2012 11:25
Where Sheffield, UK
Contact Name
Attendees Attendees (listed in alphabetical order of institution):
James Law
Mark Lee
Patricia Shaw
Gianluca Baldassarre
Marco Mirolli
Francesco Mannella
Vincenzo Fiore
Vieri Santucci
Pramod Chandrashekhariah
Luca Lonini
Jochen Triesch
Quan Wang
Leo Pape
Kail Frank
Kevin Gurney
Jen Lewis
Pete Redgrave
Ashvin Shah
Tom Stafford
Martin Thirkettle
Nico Vautrelle
Martin McGinnity
Joan Condell
Yiannis Gatsoulis
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(Jump down for logistical information, e.g., hotel location, meeting location, guidelines for Travelling from airports to Sheffield train station, areas in Sheffield to find food, etc.)

General purposes of the meeting

The sense of the whole meeting is:
(a) to refine the specific goals of the project for the collaborations of this year well-ahead before the July review meeting (in particular on CLEVER-B and CLEVER-K), and also
(b) to do things that can be done only face to face

Important: with respect to point (a), note that this meeting should be for consolidation of such collaboration goals: I expect that partners work hard on this before the USFD meeting, based on sub-group discussions, so to arrive at the Sheffield meeting with plans and ideas! To make this more concrete, I mention below some examples of activities CNR intends to carry out to prepare: The coordinator expects that all partners will carry out similar preparation activities! Please do list there the collaborations that you are working on.










Here is the group photo we took on Thursday 20 January 2012. (Click for larger version.)

Sheffield Meeting Group Photo 

 From left to right: Luca, Francesco, Vincenzo, Mark, Leo, Ashvin, Patricia, Gianluca, James, Yiannis, Vieri, Nico, Tom, Pete, Pramod, Kevin, Kail, Quan, Martin M. Missing (couldn't make it that day): Jochen, Jen, Martin T. 


Agenda (draft)

*** 17 January, Day 1 ***

Goals of morning

Plenary meeting on intrinsic motivations, this time from the bottom-up (i.e., models and empirical results). The outcome should be:
(a) a further consolidation of an integrated view on IM;
(b) recommendations of hot topics on IM to investigate with CLEVER-B3 and CLEVER-K3.
(Note: the focus on intrinsic motivations is because there is already a lot of work on hierarchical actions, and by far less "foundational problems". However, we might focus on hierarchical actions in future meetings if needed.)

9:00-9:30: Breakfast food items served

Presentations (including questions):

9:30-10:30: CNR-ISTC, Gianluca Baldassarre: Goals of meeting, and broad organisation.
Intrinsic motivations: contribute to clarifying and bridging biological and computational perspectives.

10:30-10:50: USFD, Tom Stafford: Relating exploration to learning in the joystick task.

10:50-11:20: USFD, Peter Redgrave: Recent results on intrinsic motivations experiments with monkeys.

11:20-11:50: USFD, Kevin Gurney: Modelling intrinsic motivations.

11:50-12:20: FIAS, Jochen Triesh: Gaze contingency paradigm; IM and vergence learning; curious visual exploration.

12:20-12:45: IDSIA, Kail Frank: VirtualSkin and motion planning from vision

12:45-13:45: Lunch


13:45-14:15: IDSIA, Leo Pape, UU: Intrinsically motivated learning and implementations. Plans and idas for CLEVER-K3.

14:15-15:00  all: plenary meeting on the overall strategy for collaborations on CLEVER-K3 and other collaborations: who will collaborate with who, on what, and when/how. This will also allow us establishing a broad organisation for the follow 2 days work.

15:00-15:30: Coffee break

15:30-16:00 : CNR, USFD, AU: Plans and ideas for CLEVER-B3.

16:00-16:30 : all: plenary meeting on the overall strategy for collaborations within CLEVER-B3 and other collaborations: who will collaborate with who, on what, and when/how. This will also allow us establishing a broad organisation for the follow 2 days work.

Remaining time (if any):  Start to work in groups

20:00 Dinner at the Milestone Gastro Pub . 

*** 18 January, Day 2 ***

Work in collaboration sub-groups on the topics decided in the first day.

9:00-9:30: Breakfast food items served

9:30-12:45: Work in groups

12:45-13:45: Lunch

13:45-15:00 Work in groups

15:00-15:30 Coffee break

15:30-18:00 Work in groups

Note that for each collaboration decided in the first day, these activities should be carried out:

  • Identification of cool/important/difficult  scientific/technological problems to investigate within the collaboration. In particular, (re-)define the specific goals of the demonstrators CLEVER-B3 and CLEVER-K3 due in June. 
  • Identification of research path to follow to investigate the scientific issues, or to solve the technological problems, in particular with respect to CLEVER-B3 and CLEVER-K3.
  • Nominate specific responsible persons to lead the collaborations, and other specific persons that will contribute to carry out them, in particular with respect to CLEVER-B3 and CLEVER-K3.
  • Establishment of the channels of collaboration (weekly skype meetings? Visits of person x in lab y in month z for n days?).
  • Expected time-flow and checkpoints of the research.
  • Start to work hands on on problems: 
    • Young researchers and all work on issues that can be sorted out only face-to-face.
    • Discussing tricks of models, merging models, sharing pieces of software, sharing some theoretical ideas.
    • Discussing hot topics of interest, further knowing each other,  etc.
  • Prepare a presentation to give the afternoon of the last day on all these aspects.

    *** 19 January, Day 3 ***

    9:00-9:30: Breakfast food items served

    Work in collaboration sub-groups on the topics decided in the first day.

    9:30-12:45: Work in groups

    12:45-13:45: Lunch

    13:45-15:00 Presentations by each collaboration-group of the decision made on various aspects of the collaboration. The goals of these presentations are to get feedbacks and suggestions, from others not involved in the collaborations, on possible problems in the evisaged plans (scientific, technological, logistic, etc.).

    15:00-15:30 Coffee break

    15:30-17:30 Other presentations (for the time needed; remaining time: work in groups).

    17:30-18:00: Wrap-up of the meeting


    Planned collaborations (all partners: do add your planned collaborations here)

    • CNR-ISTC-LOCEN: Formulation of detailed possible plans on CLEVER-B3, in particular on superior colliculus/predictor (as asked by Evalutors in their report) and on some critical system-level aspects of the model: this will be proposed to USFD, and some other partners, before and during the USFD meeting
    • CNR-ISTC-LOCEN, CNR-ISTC-UCP, UCBM: Meetings between CNR-modellists, CNR-primatologists, UCBM-developmentalists to define the details of the new experiments with monkeys and children.
    • CNR-ISTC-LOCEN, USFD: Skype meetings (every 2 weeks?) with the goals of:
      • Discussing common publication for January 1, focussed on neuroscience, based on CLEVER-B2
      • Discussing plans for CLEVER-B3, e.g. see proposals from Kevin Gurney
      • Writing down the key points of USFD theory on intrinsic motivations + identifying all current open problems
    • CNR-ISTC-LOCEN, AU: Emails and Skype with the goal of:
      • Refine the current model of CLEVER-B2
      • Discuss a possible common publication, focused on robotic aspects, based on CLEVER-B
      • Discuss plans for CLEVER-B3
    • CNR-ISTC-LOCEN, FIAS: Possible collaborations on vision and attention: you have seen, in the Evaluators Feedbacks on Review Meeting II, that they suggested that CLEVER-B exploits FIAS "biologically plausible" models for having a more realistic/sophisticated sensory components. What can we do in this respect?
    • AU, FIAS: Discuss vision, attention, and vergence with aim of implementing FIAS mechanisms on the CLEVER-B3 demonstrator.  Also explore use of attention and vergence components for use in learning gaze control and depth.
    • AU, USFD: Discuss possible extension of the joystick model/iCub work.  Can we plan an experiment and/or publication? A possibility might be in comparing different approaches to motor babbling and comparing their effectivenes on learning mappings on the iCub robot.
    • AU, UU: Discuss posible further exploration of the effect of novelty on learning mappings. Can we investigate the impact of different forms of novelty on learning? Is there a joint paper here?
    • AU, UCBM: CLEVER-B3/4. How can we measure development of the iCub?  What task can we have the robot perform in later demos that reflect ones used with infants?
    • UU, ALL: Discussions regarding the planned research activity for this coming year as to ensure coordination and complementarity - actions, object affordances and learn t behaviours
    • UU, IDSIA, FIAS: Specific and detailed discussions regarding preparations for the next CLEVER-K3 demonstration at next summer review
    • UU, AU: Specific and detailed discussions regarding extensions of the joint work as demonstrated at this years review.
    • UU, USFD: Discussions regarding how we might exploit their knowledge of the basal ganglia and related research in our novelty detection work - is there any way to incorporate more neuroscience knowledge into the practical robotics novelty detection models?
    • UU, CNR: Similar discussion as with USFD above - can we link their experimental approach in CLEVER-B with the more engineering approach of CLEVER-K? How might this occur?
    • ...please add other specific collaborations here...: We plan...




    Preliminary logistical information:

    Note: Ashvin sent an email to the imclever google group with pdfs of maps of the area on 11 January 2012. Please email him if you did not receive that email and would like those maps.

    Questions? Email Jen Lewis (j.m.lewis -at- and/or Ashvin Shah (ashvin -at- and/or anyone else at Sheffield.

    The meeting will take place in the Halifax conference venue at the University of Sheffield (please disregard the accommodation links from that webpage... rooms are occupied by students). We have meeting rooms Johnson and Middleton. Coffee breaks and lunch are included and will be at the Halifax venue. For a Google Maps location, type this into Google Maps search: Halifax Hall, Sheffield, S10 3ER, United Kingdom.

    As communicated by Jen Lewis in a previous email, Jen has set aside some rooms at the nearby Rutland Hotel , which about a 15 minute walk (0.7 miles) from the meeting facilities. For a Google Maps location, type this into Google Maps search: Rutland Hotel, 452 Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2PY, United Kingdom. The hotel is slightly south and west of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. It is about an £8 taxi ride from the Sheffield train station to the Rutland Hotel. There's a single, well labelled queue for taxis at the Sheffield train station. (Update: as mentioned in previous emails, the hotel has stopped holding these rooms on 14 December.)

    The big IM-CLeVeR dinner will be on the first day of the meeting, Tuesday 17 January, at 20:00 (8pm), at the Milestone Gastro Pub in Sheffield. We'll probably try and arrange for taxis to and from the Rutland hotel. 


    Travelling from airports to Sheffield train station

    Jump to travelling from London to Sheffield, travelling from Manchester Airport to Sheffield, or Helpful websites and miscellaneous info regarding train travel in England. 


    We assume most people will be flying into either Manchester Airport (which is closer to Sheffield) or one of the London Airports (which probably have more flight options). Here are some guidlines for taking the train from each of those airports to Sheffield train station. (Helpful websites are at the bottom of this section.) 

    First, note that in the UK, trains are privatized and are operated by several different companies. This means that you need to be careful when booking your tickets, and be sure to board the right train at the station as tickets booked in advance are only valid for the specific train for which they were booked. The tickets cannot be changed or refunded once booked. That said, booking tickets in advance is significantly cheaper (less than half the cost in some cases) and highly recommended, especially if you are travelling from London. Tickets from London are very expensive (around £100, including return) if you don't purchase them in advance. This is much less important for those of you travelling from Manchester Airport to Sheffield, tickets for this journey are around £25 return from the station on the day. 

    You can look at the National Rail website (link and train station codes are at the end of this section) to plan your journey and buy tickets (the website will redirect you to the appropriate train company when necessary). If you are travelling from London we recommend that, if possible, you purchase your train tickets in advance and arrange to collect them at an automated machine at the train station in London. Booking in advance means that rather than book a return ticket, instead you specify trains for your inward and outward journey and buy two single tickets, one for each leg. This, of course, has the downside of not being flexible in the least and forces you to guess at what time you think you can make the train after your plane lands, but unfortunately it is the most cost-effective way to travel long distances by rail. Also worth noting is these "advance" tickets are available now, and that as the date gets closer the "advance" tickets will run out (cheapest first) eventually leaving only the more expensive, but flexible, open returns. If you do not book in advance, you will need to queue at a desk at the station and purchase a ticket before boarding your train. 

    Below, we write out several train routes so that, when you're at a train station looking for the next train, you know which cities on the ticker board to look out for. 

    The big ticker board on the station will have the end destination of the train in large font, but should also have the stations that train will stop at in smaller font. It will also have the platform number of the train (which can change at the last minute, so double check!). At each platform there should be a sign saying where the train will stop and when it's expected to arrive. This isn't Germany or Switzerland, so there may be delays now and then. 

    From London to Sheffield:

    First you will need to travel from your airport to central London. This is straightforward for all the airports, but usually can be done a number of ways depending on how quick or expensive you want it to be. Once in central London you will need to get to Kings Cross / St. Pancras station (two separate rail stations, but they share an underground, or tube, station and you walk from one to other following signs). The tube network in London is split into various lines but the map is colour coded and easy to read. (However, be aware: there may be interruptions in service due to construction upgrades... as the date grows closer, check the Transport for London website to see if the tube line you plan to take will, in fact, be working on that day. They're pretty good about saying when they plan to do work on different tube lines.) If you need to use the tube, then buy a "zone 1 single" tube ticket (£4) on arrival which will get you across central london from wherever you are to St. Pancras station.


    Heathrow to Kings Cross / St. Pancras

    The "Heathrow express" is the fastest option (15mins to London, 25/30min to KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS), and also the most expensive (£32 return + 2*£4 tube tickets). It delivers you to London Paddington Station, where you will need to take either the Circle Line (towards Baker Street) or the Hammersmith and City Line (towards Kings Cross / St. Pancras), and get off at Kings Cross / St. Pancras station.

    "Heathrow connect" is the next option and is slower than the express (25mins to london, 35/40min to KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS) but cheaper (£13.90 return + 2*£4 tube tickets). It follows the same route as Heathrow express.

    Finally there is the underground, which is very cheap (£5 each way), takes 1 hour but does take you directly from Heathrow to KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS (stopping at many many places in between). 

    Gatwick to Kings Cross / St. Pancras:

    The "Gatwick express" is NOT the fastest option (30min to london, 57min to KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS) but is the most expensive (£31 return + 2*£4 tube ticket). This train delivers you to Victoria station where you would take the Victoria underground line to KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS).

    Instead I recommend taking the "First Capital Connect" train towards Bedford from Gatwick station, this will take you directly to  KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS faster (47min to KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS) and cheaper (£17 return) than the express and also avoids the tube entirely.

    London City to Kings Cross / St. Pancras:

    London city airport is much more central than the other airports so simply buy a "zone 1 single" tube ticket (£4) and catch the DLR (docklands light railway) to Bank station, change for the Northern line (towards High barnet or edgeware), and get off at KINGS CROSS/ST. PANCRAS. Should only be 30/35 min.


    The most frequent and direct train from London to Sheffield is operated by East Midlands Trains and goes from London St. Pancras to Sheffield. The journey takes between 2hrs07min and 2hrs35min depending on the service, and you don't have to transfer trains. 

    There are alternative routes that we do NOT recommend, mostly because they run less frequently, involve transferring trains, are not that much cheaper, and are not faster. However, here they are so you know what to look out for: 1) London Kings Cross to Retford (this train continues on to Leeds). Then, Retford to Sheffield (this train continues on to Doncaster). Both trains are operated by Northern. 2) London St. Pancras to Kettering (this train continues on to Corby). Then, Kettering to Sheffield. Both trains are operated by East Midlands. 3) London Kings Cross to Doncaster (this train continues on to Hull).  Then, Doncaster to Sheffield. Both trains are operated by Transpennine.

    From Manchester Airport to Sheffield:

    Manchester has a train station within the airport (though it is a bit of a walk from some terminals, maybe 12 minutes), so that's easy. In my (Ashvin) experience, arriving on an international flight and with a US passport, it takes a little over an hour from the time the plane lands to when I'm standing at a platform at the Manchester Airport train station. This includes customs, baggage claim, and walking through the airport to the train station. This estimate is not a guarantee!

    The most frequent and direct train from Manchester Airport to Sheffield is operated by Transpennine Express and goes from Manchester airport to Sheffield (this train continues on to Cleethorpes, which will be the big name on the ticker board). The journey takes 1hr15min. 

    Alternative routes that we do NOT recommend are: 1) Manchester Airport to Wilmslow (Northern Rail train to Crewe), then Wilmslow to Stockport  (Virgin Trains to Manchester Piccadilly), then Stockport to Sheffield (East Midlands Train to Norwich). 2) Manchester Airport to Manchester Piccadilly (Norther Rail train to Southport), then Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield (East Midlands Trains to Norwich). 


    Helpful websites and miscellaneous info:

    National Rail website (for trains around the UK... you can purchase tickets here as well).
    You can use these train station codes:
    SHF: Sheffield
    MIA: Manchester Airport
    STP: London St. Pancras
    KGX: London King's Cross
    Transport for London website (for London Underground info).
    You can purchase underground (or tube) tickets at the stations, either at automated machines or, you're not sure, at a desk (which will have a queue full of other people who don't know the system). 
    Sheffield Train Station website (from the National Rail webpages).
    Both the National Rail and TFL websites have handy "Journey Planner" tools in which you type in the place you're travelling from, the destination your're travelling to, and the time of day, and it will show you several routes that you can take.
    Heathrow Express website (train from Heathrow to London):
    The London Toolkit website is somewhat helpful if you're flying into London and want some more information.
    Londoners are snobs. While this makes them annoying sometimes, it also means that the London St. Pancras train station has plenty of very nice (and sometimes expensive) food options. So, if you have some time to waste while waiting for your train to Sheffield, it might be a good idea to grab a meal here. 
    If you are starving when you arrive at the Sheffield train station, there is a Marks and Spencers 'Simply Food' store at the Sheffield Train Station that has a wide variety of packaged meals, sandwiches, wine, and other grocery items. It's usually open from 7:00 to 22:00. It's just next to the taxi queue. It has saved my life several times.

    Walking around Sheffield (to find food!)

    There are plenty of restaurants and pubs within a 30 minute walk from the hotel and meeting location. What follows are a few specific addresses to type into Google Maps that will lead you to areas of Sheffield worth checking out for food and drink.

    Just as a reminder, here is the Rutland Hotel address to type into Google Maps: Rutland Hotel, 452 Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2PY, United Kingdom. You can have a decent dinner there, and they have a small lounge area with a pub as well. Just east of the Rutland, a few minutes walk up Glossop Road, is a decent seafood place called Loch Fyne, at Loch Fyne, 375-385 Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2HQ.

    The Broomhill neighbourhood at Fulwood Road is close to the Rutland hotel (about a 7 minute walk, just north up Glossop Road from the Rutland) and has a few pubs and restaurants, specifically, The York (but there are other restaurants and pubs nearby). Type this into Google Maps: The York, 243-247 Fulwood Road, Sheffield, S10 3BA. You'll also see some places on the walk up there.
    About a ten minute walk south of the Rutland Hotel (and just south of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens) is a cool area on Ecclesall Road. Nonna's is an Italian restaurant (though I suspect the Italians and Swiss in our group might have higher standards than I when it comes to Italian food). Type this into Google Maps: Nonna's Sheffield Ltd, 537-541 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, S11 8PR. There are some neat restaurants and pubs around Nonna's on Ecclesall Road, and there are some more just south of that on Sharrow Vale Road. There's not as much if you walk west of the roundabout (traffic circle).

    Sheffield City Centre is about a 25 minute walk from the Rutland Hotel. There are plenty of restaurants and pubs there. Type this into Google Maps: 41 Orchard Square, Sheffield, S1 2FB. That puts you in the Orchard Square shopping area, but there are plenty of places around that if you just wander around. Some of the main streets around there are Glossop Road (which turns into West Street as you walk east), Leopold Street, and Division Street.

    Finally, about a 10 minute walk from the Rutland is The University of Sheffield Union of Students, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TG. Within the Students' Union is the Interval Cafe and Bar, which will be open until about 23:00 (11pm), has drinks and pub food, and is an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Also in the Students' Union is Bar One, which should be open until midnight and has drinks and may have some cheaper pub snacks. The Student's Union website has some more information. Keep in mind that there will be plenty of undergraduates there (after all, it is the Students' Union).