Carme Torras

Professor of Research - Institut de Robòtica I Informàtica Industrial

Carme Torras ( is Research Professor at the Institut de Robòtica I Informàtica Industrial (CSIC-UPC) in Barcelona, where she leads a research group on assistive and collaborative robotics. She received M.Sc. degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Barcelona and the University of Massachusetts, respectively, and a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC). She has led sixteen European projects, the latest being her ERC Advanced Grant project CLOTHILDE – Cloth manipulation learning from demonstrations. Prof. Torras is IEEE and EurAI Fellow, member of Academia Europaea and the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona. She has served as Senior Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics, and has played different roles in the editorial boards of 10 journals, among which AI Communications, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, and Natural Computing. Convinced that science fiction can help promote ethics in AI and robotics, one of her novels - winner of the Pedrolo and Ictineu awards - has been translated into English with the title The Vestigial Heart (MIT Press, 2018) and published together with online materials to teach a course on “Ethics in Social Robotics and AI”.

Assistive AI: Research Challenges, Ethics and Science Fiction

September 01 2:45 pm - 3:45 pm (CEST)

The combination of autonomous robots, artificial intelligence and the internet of things offers immense possibilities to improve healthcare and assistance in daily living activities. Human-robot interaction in this context poses very demanding research challenges to ensure reliable and situated communication, as well as compliance with the strict physical contact requirements involved, for example, in helping users to dress or feed. These assistive tasks require dexterous manipulation skills, which need to be easily taught to robots by non-experts, as well as customized according to user needs and preferences. In addition, such skills must be intrinsically safe to people, adaptable to changing conditions, and able to handle deformable materials like clothing. Some results of projects addressing these challenges, such as CLOTHILDE and SOCRATES, will be described. Assistive AI raises also fundamental ethical issues, many practical ones stemming from algorithmic decision-making conflicting with human freedom and dignity. Several institutions are developing regulations and standards, and many ethics education initiatives include contents on human-machine interaction and human dignity in assistive situations. In the talk, free materials to teach a university course on Ethics in Social Robotics and AI, based on the appeal of science fiction narrative, will be presented.