OUDEYER_PIERRE_YVES_2013_OJPierre-Yves OudeyerI am research director (DR1) at Inria Center of University of Bordeaux, heading the Flowers team (see PhD students). I was also a research visitor at Microsoft Research Montreal (2021-22), and permanent researcher in Sony Computer Science Laboratory for 8 years (1999-2007). 

Together with a great team, I study lifelong autonomous learning, and the self-organization of behavioural, cognitive and language structures, at the frontiers of artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences. I use machines as tools to understand better how children learn and develop, and I study how one can build machines that learn autonomously like children, as well as integrate within human cultures, within the new field of developmental artificial intelligence.

We work on applications in education, aiming to use AI techniques as tools in the service of humans, fostering learning, curiosity and creativity (e.g. our algorithms are used in Adaptiv’Maths).  We also do outreach for democratizing access and understanding of AI, in diverse contexts ranging from schools to artistic projects. These projects led to several spin-off from the team, e.g. start-ups or NGOs.

For both fundamental and applied projects, we take an open science and open-source approach (e.g. see our team’s GitHub, and the Poppy open-source educational robotic kits with the associated community, used by >30k children in world in several countries).

We collaborate with many academic labs (e.g. Sorbonne-Université, MILA, Inserm) and industry (e.g. HuggingFace, Microsoft Research, evidenceB, Ubisoft, Poïetis, OnePoint).

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In more details:

In AI, we study how machines can efficiently acquire world models and open-ended repertoires of skills over an extended time span. We develop autotelic deep reinforcement learning agents able to learn to represent and generate their own goals, leveraging language and culture as cognitive tools for creative exploration, planning and abstraction (see our recent perspective paper discussing new opportunities at the crossroads of Deep RL and large language models, where llms are seen as culture models). This research also involves automatic curriculum learning.

With colleagues, I develop computational theories of curiosity and intrinsically motivated learning (with AI, neuroscience and developmental psychology perspectives). We proposed the learning progress hypothesis to explain key aspects of human spontaneous exploration. We showed how curiosity-driven exploration can self-organize long term developmental trajectories, accouting for how infants progressively develop vocal skills, tool use and language.

I also work on theoretical models of the origins and evolution of speech and language, studying the role of self-organization in neural networks and agents dynamical coupling. In the new edition of my book “Self-organization in the evolution of speech” (to appear in 2020 at OUP, CC-BY), I present an integrated view of the roles of self-organization and intrinsic motivation in the origins of language.

Educational applications. We use curiosity-driven learning algorithms to personalize sequences of exercises for human learners, maximising learning efficiency and motivation: after an initial series of experiments with >1000 children in primary schools, we are now working with a consortium of edTech companies and the support of French ministry of Education to integrate this approach in an educational software for wide dissemination. We developed open-source educational robotics kits (some used by dozens of thousands of children in the world and adapted in largely disseminated educational books e.g. from Main à la Pâte), now disseminated by a non-governmental organization and a start-up.

AI for science: Recently, we started exploring the new area of automated discovery of self-organized patterns in complex systems, leveraging intrinsically motivated goal exploration and unsupervised representation learning.

Robotics applications. In robotics, our curiosity algorithms have been used within the Sony Aibo and Qrio humanoid entertainment robots. I also worked on emotional speech synthesis technologies used in some Playstation video games, and various forms of adaptive human-computer interfaces.

AI and the arts: We collaborate with artists through diverse projects aiming to explore the links between AI and society (e.g. here, here or here), in particular to facilitate understanding of AI and its societal dimensions in the general public.

Quick links:

Selected publications:

Selected publications by topic:

Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Deep RL and Developmental AI,

Cognitive Science: Models of Human Developmental Learning and Language Evolution

Adaptive Human-Machine Interfaces, BCI, Emotional Speech Processing

Educational Technologies

Outreach Projects

Poppy: an Open-Source 3D Printed Robotic Platform

Link to information about the Poppy humanoid robot Poppy Project web site. Poppy is an open-source 3D printed robot for science, education and art designed by the Flowers team. It was built to study the impact of the body on sensorimotor development and cognition: it makes it possible to really consider the body as an experimental variable. See article at Humanoids 2013 conference.

Poppy Overview from Poppy Project on Vimeo.

IniRobot: un kit pédagogique pour l'initiation à la robotique à l'école primaire

 IniRobotIniRobot est une série d’activités pédagogiques “clés en main” destinée à la découverte de la robotique et de la programmation à l’école primaire, en particulier lors des activités périscolaires. Ce kit est libre d’utilisation (Creative Commons CC-BY-SA) et utilise le robot Thymio développé à l’EPFL. Il est déployé en France dans les activités périscolaires des écoles de plusieurs villes, dont Lille, Talence et Lormont. Il a été développé par Didier Roy, Thomas Guitard et Pierre-Yves Oudeyer dans l’équipe Flowers, et est partagé sur le site participatif Dessine-moi un robot

Art and Science

I collaborate regularly with artist within project that explore the frontiers between art and science. This has been the opportunity to create original connections between the general public and our scientific projects, in particular by bringing people to ask themselves and to ourselves stimulating questions about the position of such scientific projects within society at large.

Examples of such projects include:



See the Jobs page on the Flowers website.

Recent talk 
Developmental AI: machines that learn like children and help children learn better


Les robots et l’intelligence artificielle (Nathan, 2020)

Mondes Mosaïques (CNRS Editions, 2016)

Aux sources de la parole (Odile Jacob, 2013)

Self-organization in the evolution of speech (Oxford University Press, 2006, updated version 2020)

In the press

The Economist, sept. 2018: A sense of curiosity is helpful for artificial intelligence; Scientific American, 2018: Intelligent Machines that Learn Like ChildrenPour la Science, 2015: L’éveil des bébés robots La recherche, 2015 Le roboticien des sciences humaines Le Monde, nov. 2014 (portrait)Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, aussi curieux que ses robots Socialter, sept. 2014: Les robots seront-ils aussi “bêtes” que nous? Des machines et des hommes Les Echos, mars 2014 Les robots auront un impact sur la société

Academic Talk on Models of the Evolution of Language