Creating effective animal-robot social interactions to study cognitive development and to improve animal welfare.

Lorenzo Jamone (primary)
School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science
The Queen Mary University of London
Elisabetta Versace (secondary)
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Department of Biological and Experimental psychology
Queen Mary University of London


Building social robots that interact with living beings is the frontier in neuroscience, robotics and farming. For different applications – from animal welfare to intervention for neurodevelopmental disorders – it is crucial to understand which interactions enhance social attachment, engagement and learning and how social robots can sustain social behaviour. To reach this goal, we will investigate which mechanosensory and acoustic robot-animal interactions enhance social responses and learning in domestic chicks. Chicks are a well-known and tractable model for social behaviour, with huge importance for industrial farming worldwide. This novel and multidisciplinary approach combines the expertise in animal behaviour, robotics and network analysis.


1. E. Di Giorgio, et al., Filial responses as predisposed and learned preferences: Early attachment in chicks and babies. Behav. Brain Res. 325, 90–104 (2017).
2. E. Versace, A. Martinho-Truswell, A. Kacelnik, G. Vallortigara, Priors in Animal and Artificial Intelligence: Where Does Learning Begin? Trends Cogn. Sci. 22, 963–925 (2018).
3. J. Edgar, S. Held, C. Jones, C. Troisi, Influences of maternal care on chicken welfare. Animals 6, 1–12 (2016).
4. A. Gribovskiy, J. Halloy, J. L. Deneubourg, F. Mondada, Designing a socially integrated mobile robot for ethological research. Rob. Auton. Syst. 103, 42–55 (2018).
5. L. Jolly, et al., Animal-to-robot social attachment: Initial requisites in a gallinaceous bird. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics 11 (2016).
6. P. De Lellis, et al., Model-Based Feedback Control of Live Zebrafish Behavior via Interaction with a Robotic Replica. IEEE Trans. Robot. 36, 28–41 (2020).
7. F. Battiston, et al., Networks beyond pairwise interactions : structure and dynamics. arXiv, arXiv:2006.01764 (2019).
8. Z. Slonina, A. A. Bonzini, J. P. Brown, S. Wang, I. Farkhatdinov, K. Althoefer, L. Jamone and E. Versace, Using RoboChick to Identify the Behavioral Features Promoting Social Interactions. IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning (ICDL). Beijing, China. (2021). To appear.

Animal disease, health and welfare
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
EngineeringMathematics / Statistics