Goodbyes are in order

It is an interesting conundrum, when the person responsible for writing the usual farewell blog is also the person that has to say goodbye. Now, while talking about myself in the third person and saying goodbye on behalf of the lab definitely caters to my oversize ego, I will instead turn things around and take this space to talk in the first person instead.

I arrived at LASA in 2006, and since then I've had the opportunity of doing plenty of things, meet and get to know a lot of people, and had immense fun. I've compiled a quick list of things I did during my stay in the lab, which you can see below (click to get the proper size!).

It is always difficult to point to specific events in the time between my arrival and my departure, as events and encounters mix together in a non-linear set of multi-modal experiences that as a whole make up what I will carry with me as I go on. However it is much easier to think of beginnings and endings: I remember Florent (Guenther!) talking and joking from his computer while I set up lights to take the picture of the Hoap2 robot that still decorates the first page of our web side; I remember discussing with Sylvain and Eric about the merits of having multiple monitors while I set up my computer on a temporary desk in their office; I remember Aude telling me "talk with the gals and guys if you have any problems and you'll be fine" on my first day in the lab, which is an advice that I took to heart ever since (you might have noticed that :D).

And while memories are a fond luxury to dwell on, I've actually got pictures of what my departure has looked like!



Needless to say, I was touched and moved (and incidentally very well fed!) by your efforts, kindness and friendship.

So as a final note, good bye, fare well and see you again in the lab, in the city, at barbecues or elsewhere. I'm like bad weed, you won't get rid of me that easy…

Basilio out.

Posted by Basilio Noris at 1:03
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"Run... you fools..." (aka les 20 km de lausanne)

Running, on a rainy day...

In an everlasting effort to partake of the local life, to experience the place in which we live, and to enjoy a grand event together, the Lasa team took part in the 20km de Lausanne this saturday, sporting 8 participants to the celebrated running competition. Since we're still scientists and not weathered sportsmen, we elected to run the 10km, which accompanies the participants along the lake shore, then sends them up to the Parc de Milan, down again through the Vallée de la Jeunesse and eventually back to the Vidy park.

The weather was bad, rain and cold worsening by the kilometre, but it could not mar the spirits of the Lasa members and their support teams (wives, girlfriends, friends, sisters) who cheered and motivated the by then soaked and trembling runners in the middle and in their last stretch of the race.

As for the aftermath, the humble author of this here text will spend the day on the couch, dreading the moment in which he will have to get up to fetch the laptop charger, and generally trying to remember that, while not necessarily being able to sense them, he still has 4 articulated limbs…

In any case, to provide some data (we are, after all, a machine learning lab) here are some results on the race itself.


The LASA Participants:

  • Guillaume de Chambrier
  • Mohammad Khansari
  • Seungsu Kim
  • Klas Kronander
  • Basilio Noris
  • Guillaume Pihen
  • Nicolas Sommer
  • Ajay Tanwani

Plus some 7000 other people who managed to finish the race..

So let's have a look at the age distribution for all participants to the 10km race

We could speculate about what this graph says about the competitive spirit, or the willingness to take care of one's own body, or health consciousness of men and women, but to be on the safe side, let us just remark the definite shift toward a younger age for female runners, and the curious gap between the peak age (28 for women, 34 for men) and the plateau of participants that are some 10 years older than that...


Race Results

Let us start with the overall results for the 7000 something participants to the 10km race, segmented by age.

It is interesting to note that, while it is true that women run a tad slower than men (this can be explained in part by the fact that on average they have shorter legs...), their performance does not seem to suffer from age as much as men's (this tendency is clear as day in the 16-60 years range).



And now, since we're here to talk about us after all, let us look at the results, in infographic format, of the LASA participants:

And here are the same results plotted on the same graph above

And to describe these results in terms of numerical achievements:

  • The LASA team's average time was below one hour (58 min 40 sec), thanks in no small parts to Guillaume P and Klas
  • Guillaume P and Klas ran faster than the men's average time of 52 min 4 sec (std: 7 min 37 sec)
  • All LASA members ran in less than 1h 10 minutes
  • All LASA members were within two sigma of the men's average
  • LASA members had an average running speed between 9.0 km/h and 12.6 km/h

And of course, the methodological caveats (latin for "excuses for why we're so bad…") :

  • The dataset contains only people who DECIDED TO PARTICIPATE to the race
  • The results are only for those who FINISHED the race


The Verdict

All in all, these results count as AWESOME in my book! So kudos to Guillaume Pihen and Klas Kronander for their outsdanding results, congratulations to all the others for finishing the race so fast and a big hooray to the LASA team and friends for an unexpectedly and deserved good performance!

Posted by Basilio Noris at 14:51
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The Lasa Winter Edition

The LASA has joyfully and beautifully celebrated the passing of yet another year by gathering together for a couple of glamourous days in the snowy landscapes of Les Diablerets.

After a whole day in the snow medium, where seasoned veterans, eager initiates and courageous beginners had their respective bouts with slopes, mounds and flats,

the merry band of brothers and sisters in snow debated, studied and finally fixed the traditional fondue, which was consumed with gusto by most, and with avid gourmandise by some…

After celebrating Sahar's birthday, the night ended in discussions, tales, games and singing and dance performances…

The next day saw our comrades group themselves into cohorts of snow fighting daredevils chasing one another through the streets and pathways of Les Diablerets, and dishing it out in what became a frenzied mayhem and audacious melee.

In conclusion, a big thank you and see you next time to all who participated, and a couple more pictures for those who might enjoy a replay of an entertaining, funny, and enjoyable time.


Posted by Basilio Noris at 16:40
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Mohi's Public Defense

My AWESOME labmates, after my public PhD defense. I have enjoyed each moment of my PhD life thanks to the amazing atmosphere at our lab. Every working day was full of interesting scientific and non-scientific discussions with such an awesome multifaceted group of people. Thank you all for your helps, availability, and friendship!




Posted by Seyed Mohammad Khansari Zadeh at 14:36
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Veni vidi weepy, a TACT adventure

The TACT team flew to rome yesterday for the final meeting and closing chapter of the TACT project. The departure was somewhat delayed by the need to wait one hour for the defrosting truck to come to the plane and shower us with pink anti-frost liquid. (see picture of the week for an idea of what the airport looked like during our wait...)

The meeting went much as expected and was followed by a ludicrously repast consisting in:


  • Affettati misti
  • Formaggi misti
  • Mozzarella di bufala
  • Ricotta al rosmarino
  • Polenta alla romagnola
  • Fagioli al coteghin

Primo piatto

  • Pappardelle ai frutti di mare
  • Bucatini alla Amatriciana

Secondo piatto

  • Verdure e maxi-spiedino misto alla griglia
  • Patate arrosto


  • Choice of Crema Catalana, BoBa al Rhum, Sorbetto, Panna Cotta, Gelato al Cioccolato

The authors would like to make it clear that the meal consisted in ALL of the above, not just in a choice of those...

Dario managed to get all plates down, while getting seconds AND THIRDS of pappardelle ai frutti di mare.


The sounds of the night were improved by rain and thunder that stormed up to the morning, where we had a nice surprise:

The whole Trigoria zone (where the Campus Biomedico resides) was completely flooded.


The Tevere went out of its bounds and the whole city was in disarray.


This allowed us to get to the campus nonetheless, where we were able to participate to the first part of the TACT symposium and attend to part of the talks.


During the coffee break and poster session, we were able to present the wearcam with attitude to an interested public.





Getting to the airport (a couple or 5 hours in advance, just to be sure that we'd actually GET THERE in spite of floods, traffic, and other natural disasters...) we were happy to notice that technological devices used in state-of-the-art  research are available to the public even in italian airports.



And thankfully, the lasa@TACT team was able to make it home safely, weather and turbulence notwithstanding...

Posted by Basilio Noris at 16:00
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Lasa BBQ 25 June 2008
So the lasa got back from the States, Hong Kong, and other parts of the world, resettled down, got their respective jetlags checked and decided to celebrate the ICRA08 HRI Competition victory with a proper BBQ by the lake!

Among the many activities (like, preparing food, cooking it, eating it...) they ended up exercising in a couple of sports/performances such as contemporary dance:


and some more traditional soccer
Posted by Basilio Noris at 13:22
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There be Winners
It's kinda difficult to resume 4 days of neverending demos in few lines.

The event took place in the worst building to date for an international conference. (correction: the place will be awesome once they finish building it, but right now you have the impression of entering a construction site). Inside it was actually cool and bright.

We met up with Jonas and Ludovic, who did a crash brainstorming with Aude on how to explain Humanoid Robotics to people from the industry

Everybody contributed to the demos in different ways, either in an utterly serious manner

or with a more relaxed attitude, even when they had to give 2 talks in the same afternoon

The demo went really well, computers never crashed and the robot behaved properly. And apparently it was a huge success.

Nevertheless, we sometimes had to do some on the fly corrections, tweaking and engineering

Our legs were pulled by our professor when she decided to hint that the winner of the competition had been a... less than glorious demo from another team...
We were then really happy to discover that...


alongside Keepon and the Kozima-Michalowski team. The two robots have bonded over the 4 conference days, crashing a party together, barging into a conference room and invading mars..

We were actually able to understand how tiring and wearing all of it was only 2 days later when we were utterly unable to do anything all day :D.
Posted by Basilio Noris at 19:02
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A Tough Day
Yesterday was a tiring and hard working day for the LASA@LA people.

In the morning they barely had time for a quick and frugal breakfast just around the corner

(we drove 50minutes to get there)

After breakfast, they had to travel through muscle street, venice beach and all the way to santa monica


Enfeebled by the long walk they had to rest their weary feet before daring the streets of santa monica.


Some of us, in an impulse decided to increase their musical archives, much to the pleasure of some of the others which still have some way to go before they'll be able to appreciate some good music.


Traveling under the hot sun, and working really hard at enjoying themselves, they had to take some hours off their agenda to scorch under the sun and recover some strength...

And of course, the evening was completed by tortillas from "Chez Sylvain"

followed by a midnight jacuzzi and the realization that all of us got troubling amounts of sunburn...
Posted by Basilio Noris at 9:04
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LASA in transit
For some of the LASA in transit, the trip started at the wee hours of the night. Some had to get up at ungodly hours to leave far away parts of switzerland in order to get to Zurich Airport. Others had more reasonably started the journey the night before and were at a relatively short distance from the airport, postponing the wake up alarm by a couple or four hours compared to the rest.

Once to the airport, through the check-in and customs (which went astoundingly swiftly) a well earned 30 minutes rest (for some) or cause for excitement (for others)

Note: notice Marino's impressive achievements in preparing for the american adventure..

The trip went rather well, long but not too much, some slept, others worked, others did both or neither...

Despite the somewhat confusing instructions of both street signs and the car gps

we managed to get to our appartment complex, which is huge and provided with pool and jacuzzi open till midnight (we had our chance to test that out yesterday, drinking beers (or a coke in my case) in the jacuzzi and discussing with a couple of garrulous locals...)

A last surprise for our travel-weary and very tired heros: the 5 keys to our appartment didnt work and we had to roam around for another half hour to get the ludicrously british security guard to bring us new keys!
Posted by Basilio Noris at 16:14
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And off they go
The subset of people involved in the ICRA trip have spent their day today prepping for departure:

To be sure the luggage would fit the weight limitations, the engineers came up with original solutions coming back to the good old laws of physics..

And in perfect time to not get thrown out of the lab by the Balelec people, everything (hopefully...) got packed properly:
Posted by Basilio Noris at 18:07
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