Talk title:
Cloth manipulation and human-robot interaction in assistive settings

Assistive robots should be able to collaborate with caregivers and patients in tasks often involving textiles. However, manipulating cloth items in a versatile way remains a challenging open problem in robotics. The vast number of degrees of freedom involved in deformations undermines the effectiveness of the modelling, planning and control methods available for rigid objects. Within the CLOTHILDE project (, powerful recent developments in computational topology, machine learning and model-predictive control have been combined to endow robots with both quasi-static and dynamic cloth manipulation skills. Moreover, a friendly, safe, personalized and ethically-aware interaction is especially important in sensitive situations with vulnerable end-users. Co-design with all the involved stakeholders is crucial in these settings, and some robot prototypes developed in this way and equipped with the aforementioned skills will be shown in the talk. Finally, some programs and materials to foster ethical debate among technologists will be pointed out.

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 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 supervised 20 PhD theses and led 17 European projects, among which her ERC Advanced Grant project CLOTHILDE – Cloth manipulation learning from demonstrations. Prof. Torras is IEEE, EurAI and ELLIS Fellow, and her research achievements have been recognized with several distinctions, the latest being the Catalan National Research Award (2020), and the Spanish National Research Prize in mathematics and ICT (2020). Committed to promoting ethics in the deployment of digital technologies, she has developed freely available online materials to teach a course on “Ethics in Social Robotics and AI” based on her science fiction novel The Vestigial Heart (MIT Press, 2018), which is being taught at several universities worldwide. She is vice-president of CSIC’s Ethics Committee.