OUDEYER_PIERRE_YVES_2013_OJPierre-Yves OudeyerI am research director (DR1) at Inria, heading the Flowers team at Inria Bordeaux Sud-Ouest (see PhD students). I was previously a permanent researcher in Sony Computer Science Laboratory for 8 years (1999-2007). 

I study lifelong autonomous learning, and the self-organization of behavioural, cognitive and language structures, at the frontiers of artificial intelligence, machine learning, 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, within the new field of developmental artificial intelligence.

With colleagues, I develop fundamental 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 in high-dimensional bodies and environments. We showed that such forms curiosity-driven exploration can self-organize long term developmental trajectories, accouting for how infants progressively develop vocal skills, tool use and language.

From an AI and machine learning perspective, we study how machine can efficiently acquire world models, as well as open-ended repertoires of skills over an extended time span. In particular, we develop deep reinforcement learning agents able to learn to represent and generate their own goals, leveraging grounded language learning for out-of-distribution creative exploration (see this blog post), and automatic curriculum learning. This addresses the major AI challenge of how to learn autonomously in high-dimensional environments, when there are no external rewards and many potential distractors. We are combining these approaches with self-supervised deep learning techniques, used to learn spaces in which to self-generate goals, to discover independently controllable features, solve efficiently sparse reward problems in Deep RL, and learn efficiently modular goal-conditioned policies. We also study how neuro-symbolic architectures can enable learning structured representations and handling systematic compositionality and generalization. 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.

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.

Applications: societal and industrial impact. I also work on real-world applications grounded in this fundamental research. In educational technologies, 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. 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.

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.

ICLR 2019 Keynote talk


Mondes Mosaïques (CNRS Editions, 2016)

Aux sources de la parole (Odile Jacob, 2013)

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

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