ERCIM News No.28 - January 1997

TMR Research Network VIRGO: Vision-Based Robot Navigation Research Network

by Stelios C. Orphanoudakis and Panos E. Trahanias

VIRGO, funded under the Training and Mobility of Researchers Programme, has recently commenced as a research network involving ten computer vision and robotics laboratories from eight European countries. The goal of the VIRGO network is to coordinate European research and postgraduate training activities that address the development of intelligent robotic systems able to navigate in (partially) unknown and possibly dynamic environments. This goal will be achieved through a framework which enhances RTD activities in European laboratories, already established in the aforementioned scientific area.

VIRGO will focus on the use of visual information in robot navigation, that is information acquired from a sequence of images. This information will, however, be combined with information provided by other sensors (eg sonar, infra read, tactile) to simplify certain tasks. In acquiring and processing the visual information, our approach is based on the Purposive and Qualitative vision paradigm, which offers many advantages for the particular task. Environment learning issues will also be considered within VIRGO, aiming at autonomous acquisition of the discriminating environment features.

In order to approach the coordination of the VIRGO Network in a tractable way, it is broken down into tasks (T1-T8) with specific (sub)goals. The systematic and in-depth execution of these tasks will provide solutions and insights to the problems involved. Emphasis will be given to the integration of methodologies, since the goal of autonomous navigation requires more than solutions to specific subproblems.


Involvement of Industry

VIRGO has already achieved the endorsement of industrial sponsors. Five companies have shown strong interest in the goals and objectives of the VIRGO Network; these are ALCATEL Espace (France), ITMI APTOR (France), AITEK s.r.l. (Italy), Robosoft (France), and TELEROBOT (Italy). Moreover, the Intelligent Systems Group from Systems Technology Research in Daimler Benz AG (Germany) is highly interested in actively participating in VIRGO with its own budget and resources. These companies, as well as others that will be contacted in the early phases of VIRGO, will be invited to contribute to the early discussions and the definitions of specific goals within the project's tasks. Moreover, companies which develop robotic platforms and vision equipment will be invited to contribute to network workshops.

The industrial involvement outlined above will help focus the network research efforts towards issues entailed in technology applications in the autonomous navigation area.

Training Aspects and Employment of Young Researchers

Each of the VIRGO participating organizations will employ a number of young researchers during the three year period of the contract. Participants aim at employing mainly post-doctoral researchers; fewer man-months will be devoted to doctoral students. A total of 422 man-months are envisaged to be funded by the network. From these, 120 man-months will be occupied by doctoral students, whereas 302 man-months will support post-doctoral researchers. Young researchers employed at one VIRGO node will have the opportunity, upon termination of their appointment, to be reappointed and continue their research at another network node.

The young researchers are expected to work and specialize in computer vision methodologies (visual competences), object recognition (pattern recognition), planning (global/local motion planning) and machine learning. Researchers will have the opportunity to experiment and train with different approaches, thus further developing their own ideas and critical thinking. Moreover, they will acquire valuable experience through the involvement of industry in VIRGO and benefit from related work opportunities.

The Consortium

Coordinator: ICS-FORTH

Participants: Aalborg University, Denmark; University of Genova, Italy; Technical University Graz, Austria; Kungl Tekniska Hogskolan, KTH, Sweden; Universität Bonn, Germany; INRIA, GMD, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; University of Zurich, Switzerland

For additional information regarding VIRGO and positions available at different network nodes, please visit the VIRGO home page at:

Please Contact:
Stelios Orphanoudakis ­ ICS-FORTH
Tel: +30 81 391 600

Panos Trahanias ­ ICS-FORTH
Tel: +30 81 391 715

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