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About me

Notice: I am moving to Imperial College London in Sep 2015!

Petar Kormushev

My name is Petar Kormushev. I am a Research Team Leader (equivalent to Assistant Professor) at the Advanced Robotics department of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa. I am also a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London, UK.

I do research in robotics and machine learning. My research focus is on reinforcement learning algorithms and their application to autonomous robots. My long-term goal is to create robots that can learn by themselves and adapt to dynamic environments. You can find details about my Research and Publications, as well as watch Videos from my research experiments with robots.

At IIT, I am leading the Learning and Interaction Lab of the Advanced Robotics department. We develop machine learning algorithms and apply them to robots like the compliant humanoid robot COMAN, the iCub humanoid robot, the Barrett WAM arm manipulator robot, and the Fujitsu HOAP-2 small humanoid robot. This is my page at IIT.

In 2009, I obtained my PhD degree from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), where I was doing research in computational intelligence under the supervision of Prof. Kaoru Hirota. My PhD thesis was dedicated to methods for speeding up the reinforcement learning process. I was also supervised by Visiting Prof. Kohei Nomoto from Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Visiting Prof. Shigeaki Sakurai from Toshiba Corp.

In 2005, I received my MSc degree in Artificial Intelligence from Sofia University, at the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics. In 2006, shortly before moving to Japan, I successfully defended my second MSc degree in Bio- and Medical Informatics.

I have had the chance to collaborate with many excellent researchers in robotics and machine learning, including Dr. Sylvain Calinon and Dr. Nikos Tsagarakis from IIT, Prof. Dragomir N. Nenchev from Tokyo City University, Assoc. Prof. Gennady Agre from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Dr. Barkan Ugurlu from Toyota Technological Institute. I am deeply grateful to my university lecturer Assoc. Prof. Maria Nisheva, for inspiring me to pursue studies in artificial intelligence.

In addition to my scientific research, I have more than 7 years of working experience. In 2008, I worked at Google Japan for 3 months as a software engineer in the Search Quality team. I created a prototype of a new search query categorization system (which I called Google Genus) using machine learning algorithms.

Thanks for visiting my website, I wish you pleasant surfing!

— Petar

Open positions in my team

PhD positions in Robotics and Machine Learning for 2016 (NEW!)
PhD positions in Robotics and Machine Learning for 2015 (deadline passed)
PhD positions in Robotics and Machine Learning for 2014 (deadline passed)
Post-doc position in Machine Learning for Robotics, May 2013 (deadline passed)
Post-Doc positions in Robotics at IIT for 2012 (deadline passed)
PhD positions in Robotics at IIT for 2012 (deadline passed)

Moving to Imperial College London!

I am glad to announce that I will be moving to Imperial College London starting from September 2015!

My new position will be Lecturer in Robotics and Computing at the Dyson School of Design Engineering.

I will also continue supervising PhD students at the Robot Learning and Interaction Lab  which I was leading until now at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT).

Visiting Researcher at KCL

Since August 2014 I am a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at KCL (King’s College London). I am working with the groups of Prof. Kaspar Althoefer and Prof. Maria Fox.
We are also collaborating on two EU FP7 projects (PANDORA and STIFF-FLOP) on the topics of persistent autonomy for underwater vehicles and learning for robot-assisted surgery.


Special Issue on Humanoid Robotics

I am co-editing a special Issue on Humanoid Robotics for the Advanced Robotics journal of RSJ. The submission deadline for papers is:   April 14, 2014

More information about this special issue

With the President of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev

With the President of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev

I received the 2013 John Atanasoff award by the President of Bulgaria!


“John Atanasoff” Award, 2013
Awarded by the President of Bulgaria for scientific excellence and contributions to the development of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) in Bulgaria and abroad. The award bears the name of Prof. John Atanasoff (who is of Bulgarian descent) – the inventor of the first electronic digital computer.

More info here


In 2012, I was appointed as a co-chair of the prestigious IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Robot Learning!

“After three very successful years for the Technical Committee on Robot Learning, the founding chairs Jan Peters, Jun Morimoto, Russ Tedrake and Nicholas Roy are stepping down as chairs of the committee. They will be replaced by Petar Kormushev, Edwin Olson, Ashutosh Saxena, and Wataru Takano who have kindly agreed to take the reigns of the committee.”

WAM_visuospatial_skill_learning_150px[Oct, 2013] “Visuospatial skill learning” – a novel approach for robot learning by demonstration (visual imitation learning).
[Aug, 2011] We presented our pizza-making robot at the Robotic Challenge event of AAAI’2011 in San Francisco!

See more info and photos here.

[Mar, 2011] New conference paper was accepted to IROS 2011!Kormushev, P., Ugurlu, B., Calinon, S., Tsagarakis, N., and Caldwell, D.G., “Bipedal Walking Energy Minimization by Reinforcement Learning”, IROS 2011.
Robot learns to clean a whiteboard[Aug, 2010] My new research experiment: Robot learns to clean a whiteboard! A free-standing Fujitsu HOAP-2 humanoid robot learns to clean a surface by upper-body kinesthetic teaching.
Publication: P. Kormushev, D. Nenchev, S. Calinon, D. Caldwell, Upper-body Kinesthetic Teaching of a Free-standing Humanoid Robot, IEEE Intl. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2011), 2011.
Haptic input used to demonstrate force profile of a task[Nov, 2010] New journal paper! Kormushev, P., Calinon, S., and Caldwell, D.G., “Imitation learning of positional and force skills demonstrated via kinesthetic teaching and haptic input”, Advanced Robotics, 2011.
Demonstrating the ironing task[Nov, 2010] New conference workshop paper!
Kormushev, P., Calinon, S., and Caldwell, D.G., “Approaches for Learning Human-like Motor Skills which Require Variable Stiffness During Execution”, Workshop on Humanoid Robots Learning from Human Interaction (Humanoids 2010), 2010.
Robot archer[May, 2010] My new research experiment: Robot archer! An iCub humanoid robot learns the skill of archery: it learns to aim and shoot arrows at the center of the target. Check it in the Videos section.

The paper publication: “Learning the skill of archery by a humanoid robot iCub”, IEEE Intl. Conf. on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2010), pp. 417-423, 2010.

Pancake flipping robot[Jan, 2010] My new research experiment: Pancake flipping robot! A Barrett WAM robot learns how to flip pancakes by itself, trying to imitate a demonstration done by a human teacher.

Watch it in the Videos section.




Moving to Imperial College London!

I am glad to announce that I will be moving to Imperial College London starting from September 2015!

My new position will be Lecturer in Robotics and Computing at the Dyson School of Design Engineering.

I will also continue supervising PhD students at the Robot Learning and Interaction Lab  which I was leading until now at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT).

DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

At the DARPA Robotics Challenge in Los Angeles, preparing for the finals (in 2 days)!

Our robot is called WALK-MAN, and is representing Italy:




WALK-MAN robot

WALK-MAN robot

WALK-MAN is a humanoid robot developed by the Italian Institute of Technology and University of Pisa in Italy, within the European funded project WALK-MAN (www.walk-man.eu). The project is a four-year research programme which started in October 2013 and aims to developing a humanoid robot for disaster response operations.

WALK-MAN is the acronym of “Whole Body Adaptive Locomotion and Manipulation” underlining its main research goal: enhancing the capabilities of existing humanoid robots, permitting them to operate in emergency situations, while assisting or replacing humans in civil damaged sites including buildings, such as factories, offices and houses. In such scenarios, the Walk-man robot will demonstrate human type locomotion, balance and manipulation capabilities. To reach these targets, Walk-man design principles and implementation relied on the use of high performance actuation systems, compliant body and soft under actuated hand designs taking advantage of the recent developments in mechanical design, actuation and materials.

The first prototype of the WALK-MAN robot will participate in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals in June 2015, but it will be further developed both in hardware and software, in order to validate the project results through realistic scenarios, consulting also civil defense bodies. The technologies developed within Walk-man project have also a wide range of other applications, including industrial manufacturing, co-worker robots, inspection and maintenance robots in dangerous workspaces, and may be provided to others on request.

Technical details

The prototype WALK-MAN platform is an adult size humanoid with a height of 1.85m an arm span of 2m and a weight of 118Kg. The robot is a fully power autonomous, electrically powered by a 2KWh battery unit; its body has 33 degrees of freedom (DOF) actuated by high power electric motors and all equipped with intrinsic elasticity that gives to the robot superior physical interaction capabilities.

The robot perception system includes torque sensing, end effector F/T sensors, and a head module equipped with a stereo vision system and a rotating 3D laser scanner, the posture of which is controlled by a 2DOF neck chain. Extra RGB-D and colour cameras mounted at fixed orientations provide additional coverage of the locomotion and manipulation space. IMU sensors at the head and the pelvis area provide the necessary inertial/orientation sensing of the body and the head frames. Protective soft covers mounted along the body will permit the robot to withstand impacts including those occurred during falling incidents. The software interface of the robot is based on YARP (www.yarp.it) and ROS (www.ros.org).

The WALK-MAN team information is available on the DARPA DRC website: