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  • Istituto di BioRobotica

INTERNATIONAL EVENTS: Workshop on animal–robot interaction

Publication date: 25.05.2020
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The workshop on Animal-Robot Interaction will be held in the framework of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), one of the largest and most impacting robotics research conferences worldwide. IROS provides an international forum for the international robotics research community to explore the frontier of science and technology in intelligent robots and smart machines.
The organizers of the international workshop are Cesare Stefanini, full Professor of Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, and Principal Investigator of the Creative Engineering Design Area, and Donato Romano, Assistant Professor of The BioRobotics Institute, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: IROS 2020 will not be held in-person. The safety and well-being of our participants is our priority. With the continued resurgence of COVID-19 within the State of Nevada, in particular Las Vegas, along with the city’s prohibiting large or even moderately-sized public gatherings, it makes it an impossibility to hold the in-person event as originally planned.
Instead, IROS On-Demand will be the platform to enjoyable and easily access IROS content anywhere, anytime, with any device. IROS On-Demand will be released Oct 25, 2020 and content will be available for 1-month minimum. The registration for IROS 2020 will be free and extended to authors and non-authors.
Use this link to register and ensure access to the IROS Workshop on Animal-Robot Interaction:
For the interactive Q&A session use the link below to connect to the live panel discussion moderated by prof. Cesare Stefanini and Dr. Donato Romano on October 26th 2020 from 15:00 to 16:00 (CET):



Among the contexts of biorobotics and bionics, animal–robot interactive systems represent a fascinating and unique research field, opening up to new opportunities for multiple scientific and technological purposes, including biological structure and function investigations, as well as bioinspired algorithms and artifacts design. In these biohybrid dynamic systems, artificial agents are no longer simple dummies, but they are accepted as natural agents (i.e. heterospecific or conspecific) by animals. Robots are able to perceive, communicate and interact/adapt with the animals, activating, in the latter, selected neuro-behavioral responses, and adjusting their behavior according with the animal’s one.
Cognitive traits, including perception, learning, memory and decision making, play an important role in biological adaptations and conservation of an animal species.
Robots can represent advanced allies in studying these behavioral adaptations, since they are fully controllable, and it is possible to adjust their position in the environment, allowing a highly standardized and reproducible ethorobotic experimental interaction.
This research field represents a paradigm shifting in the study of animal behavior, with potential applications to the control of animal populations in agriculture, to the improvement of animal farming conditions, as well as in preserving wildlife.
Understanding animal intelligence through interactions with artificial agents relies on several "hot" research avenues, such as biomimetic control, soft robotics, learning of behavior, and many more. Animals are exceptional model organisms to use as a problem setting in which we develop new methods in the fields mentioned above. Animals’ interindividual abilities in learning can be used to face fundamental robotics challenges when robots interacts with biotic and abiotic environmental factors, including interactions with humans.
One of the aims of this scientific field is to advance animal wellness and environmental sustainability by mitigating the influence of human activities on ecosystems. In addition, these biohybrid systems can act as distributed networks of sensors and actuators in which animals and robots take the best from each other, producing advanced bio-artificial multiagent systems with new biohybrid cognitive and physical capabilities.
Animal-robot hybrid systems will bring new capabilities to current bioinspired robotic systems.
Furthermore, animal-robot interaction, beside new knowledge, can hold to a remarkable socio-economic impact on our daily lives, as well as on the environmental impact of humans.
The Organizers consider this active scientific and technological field as the future of robotics and bionics as it merges the best of biological and engineering worlds, and includes multiple disciplines such as ethology, neuroscience, ecology, robotics, A.I., bio-systems engineering.
Although, the scientific and technological potential that these biohybrid systems have is huge, still few pathways have been explored. Given the outstanding worldwide reputation of IROS in the field of robotics, IROS will be a key vector contributing to the spreading of this novel and promising field of Science, providing a significant added value to it.
This workshop will represent a significant landmark to introduce the potentiality of this field to the whole robotics community, and for triggering future developments in the field. In summary this workshop aims at introducing a broad range of methodologies and results based on a novel, highly multidisciplinary bionic approach and at providing a well substantiated vision on future strategic research lines in this field.


Prof. Cesare Stefanini - The BioRobotics Institute, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pontedera, Pisa 56025, Italy.
Phone: 050 883412

Dr. Donato RomanoThe BioRobotics Institute, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pontedera, Pisa 56025, Italy.
Phone: 050 883411


  • Animal-robot interaction
  • A.I.
  • Ethorobotics
  • Biomimetics
  • Bioinspired robotics
  • Bio-hybrid intelligent system
  • Bio-hybrid and cyber-organisms
  • Mixed societies
  • Neuroethology
  • InterAction Technology
  • Communication strategies
  • Soft robotics
  • Swarm robotics
  • Zoology

Intended audience

Target audience includes researchers from multiples disciplines, representatives of R&D departments from agritech and high-tech industry, research policy makers. The aim of this workshop is to introduce and promote the field of animal-robot interaction to a wide and multidisciplinary audience, and in particular to the robotics community. It will facilitate communication and exchange of information among roboticists and biologists that want to learn innovative approaches to establish animal-robot interactions to successfully investigate and control natural-artificial systems, by exploiting the synergic contribution from multiples scientific and technological fields. Also, it is an attempt to help biologists and in particular zoologists to shift from traditional ethological methods to the highly advanced approach offered by robotic systems, in order to improve reliability and reproducibility of their studies in an Open Science perspective.

Invited Speakers

  • Prof. Maurizio Porfiri, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering, New York University, Brooklyn, NY, USA.
  • Prof. Auke Ijspeert, the Biorobotics Laboratory, Institute of Bioengineering, EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Prof. Tim Landgraf, Dahlem Center of Machine Learning and Robotics, Institute for Informatics, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
  • Prof. Heiko Hamann, Institute of Computer Engineering, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.
  • Prof. Thomas Schmickl, Artificial Life Laboratory, Department for Zoology at the University of Graz, Austria.
  • Prof. Gerhard von der Emde, Institute of Zoology Neuroethology - Sensory Ecology Poppelsdorfer Schloss Meckenheimer Allee 169 53115 Bonn Germany.
  • Prof. John Long, Cognitive Science Department, Vassar College, New York, USA.
  • Dr. Giovanni Polverino, Centre for Evolutionary Biology, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.
  • Dr. David Bierbach, Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, Germany.
  • Dr. Eric Aaron, Department of Computer Science, Colby College, Waterville, Maine, USA.
  • Dr. Alexander Brown, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lafayette College, Easton, USA.
  • Dr. Lei Liu, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Shanghai, China.
  • Dr. Stefanie Gierszewski, Institute of Biology, Department of Chemistry – Biology, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Siegen, Germany


The “Workshop on animal–robot interaction” is supported by: 

  • IEEE/RAS Technical Committee (TC) on Bio Robotics; 
  • IEEE/RAS Technical Committee for Cyborg & Bionic Systems; 
  • IEEE/MBS Technical Committee (TC) on BioRobotics; 
  • Biological Cybernetics, Springer


The “Workshop on animal–robot interaction” is sponsored by:

  • HUBILIFE LLC, innovative start-up and spin-off of Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa