Cognitive Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Top scientists from Switzerland and the US discuss developments in robotics. Find out if robots can self-reflect, self-improve, and adapt to new circumstances, and if robots of the future could one day possess the same cognitive characteristics as humans.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


January 20, 2012 from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)


Join an audience at swissnex San Francisco as scientists from Switzerland and the US discuss their research on humanoid robots, cognitive robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI). Hear how some robots self-reflect, self-improve, and adapt to new circumstances, and whether it’s possible for robots of the future to possess the same cognitive characteristics as humans.

Cornell University’s Hod Lipson is seeking to understand if machines can learn analytical laws automatically. For centuries, scientists have attempted to identify and document analytical laws underlying physical phenomena in nature. Despite the prevalence of computing power, the process of finding natural laws and their corresponding equations has resisted automation. Lipson has developed machines that take in information about their environment and discover natural laws all on their own, even learning to walk.

Rolf Pfeifer directs the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich. Together with his scientific assistant Pascal Kaufmann, Pfeifer presents current AI research and a humanoid robot in the Ecce family referred to as Cronos.

Standard humanoid robots mimic the human form but they generally function quite differently—and their characteristics reflect this. This places severe limitations on the kinds of interactions robots can engage in, on the knowledge they can acquire about their environment, and on the nature of their cognitive engagement. Instead of copying only the outward form of a human, Cronos mimics the inner structures as well—bones, joints, muscles, and tendons—and thus has more human-like actions and interactions in the world.


6:30 pm    doors open
7:00 pm    event begins
8:30 pm    reception & networking
10:00 pm  doors close


Pascal Kaufmann

Pascal Kaufmann graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), receiving his master’s degree in biology with a specialization in neuroscience. He carries out research at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Oerlikon, focusing on biological and artificial neural networks, consciousness research, cyborg technology, and know-how trading. He is also founder, CEO, and chairman of the board of directors of Starmind, which gives companies access to latest artificial intelligence technology.


Hod Lipson

In 2001, Hod Lipson joined the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the faculty of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He is also a member of the Computer Science and Computational Biology graduate fields at Cornell. Prior to this appointment, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Brandeis University’s Computer Science Department and a Lecturer in MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Department. He received his Ph.D. in 1998 from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Before joining academia, he spent several years as a research engineer in the mechanical, electronic, and software industries.


Rolf Pfeifer

Rolf Pfeifer received his master’s degree in physics and mathematics and his Ph.D. in computer science from ETH Zurich in Switzerland. He spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University and at Yale University. Since 1987, he has been a professor of computer science in the Department of Informatics at the University of Zurich and Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Pfeifer worked as a visiting professor and research fellow at Free University of Brussels (Belgium), the Beijing Open Laboratory for Cognitive Science (China), the MIT Artificial Intelligence laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego, California, and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris. He was elected the 21st Century COE Professor of Information Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo, Japan, for 2003/2004, from where he held the first global, fully interactive, videoconferencing-based lecture series “The AI Lectures from Tokyo.” In 2009, he was elected as a Fellow of the School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo. He is a visiting professor at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
This event is part of our Robots Among Us series and is a project of the U.S.-wide program ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future. As a leading country in science, research, and technology, Switzerland is working with its American counterparts to address key global topics such as sustainability to better understand trends and arrive at solutions.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos