Anna Belardinelli, Postdoc

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Anna Belardinelli, Postdoc

Hometown: Rome, Italy

Affiliation: University of Tübingen, Cognitive Modeling Group

What are you working on?

The focus of my current research is to investigate the cognitive processes which support eye-hand coordination and object manipulation. Our life, in a way, revolves around objects. When we grasp a cup, open a book, or use a tool, successful actions depend on both the visual assessment of relevant object properties (orientation, size, function, the location of the handle) and the sensorimotor knowledge about how exactly the object needs to be manipulated to achieve the current task. My goal is to design a cognitive model of such behavior in order to automatically recognize and predict people’s intentions.

Why is it interesting?

This research can tell us a lot about how we look for information in the world and how we structure our actions in it. Models that can anticipate from our first look on an object what we are going to do with it can impact human-computer interaction, robotic systems and technologies helping both healthy and impaired people.

What’s the most amazing thing you’ve found out so far?

That our eyes are surprisingly reliable in anticipating not only the object we want to interact with, just before the hand has started moving towards it, but they can also suggest what we want to do with it, how we plan to grasp it or even how familiar we are with a tool. For example, if an object is upside down we first have to rotate it upright in order to use it, hence we will look more toward the bottom of it. If we have to use an unfamiliar tool, we visually explore its active part in order to infer its usage, even before going for the handle to grasp it.

What do you like most about being a scientist?

I like the challenge and the incentive to find answers to interesting and puzzling questions, and the impulse to communicate what you have found out. It can be a very creative job.

Photo credit: Fabian Schrodt

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