Martin Peniak

Year of graduation: 2014

Current employer: Cortexica Vision Systems

Current job title: Head of Innovation

Current location: London


"I finished my PhD and then presented all of my work in an inspirational TEDx talk in Bratislava attended by around a thousand people that then gave me a standing ovation."

What was the title of your project?

GPU Computing for Cognitive Robotics

Describe your research in one sentence.

Exploring the applications of parallel GPU computing to various areas of cognitive robotics focusing particularly on action and language acquisition in the humanoid robot iCub.

What was the most exciting elements of your project?

I have so many great memories but probably the most exciting times were when my work on developing autonomous Mars rovers led to a formal collaboration of University of Plymouth and the European Space Agency (ESA). Another stand out moment was when I was offered a research internship position at NVIDIA in Silicon Valley during summer 2012. Another great moment was when I was among the first to promote GPU computing at the University, which later led to opening one of the first NVIDIA CUDA teaching centres in the UK where I would work as an associate lecturer. Finally, I finished my PhD and then presented all of my work in an inspirational TEDx talk in Bratislava attended by around a thousand people that then gave me a standing ovation. This was truly one of the greatest moments. 

What was the most exciting outcome of your project?

Developing a cognitive robotics toolkit called Aquila that enabled me to design complex GPU accelerated artificial neural networks allowing the iCub humanoid robot to perform complex actions and understand simple language. The GPU computing has allowed me to develop multiple time-scales recurrent neural networks of previously unseen scale and complexity, which resulted in the development of a model capable of controlling all the 51 degrees of freedom of the iCub as well as its vision and language processing.

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your research?

Whilst finishing my PhD thesis I was approached by vision systems company Cortexica. I started as a Parallel Computing Software Engineer and after two years I became Head of Innovation. I love my job and I am doing anything from programming, research, attending technical conferences, exploring new fields such as augmented and virtual reality but also staying up to date with the latest advancements in machine learning. This allows me to bring new innovations to the company, which later leads to new products. I have used my previous contacts at European Space Agency to get a letter of support for our new project that will involve developing machine vision hardware/software solution for satellites. These satellites will be sent to orbit at some point in 2020. This means that I managed to get back to my passion, which is space exploration and research while still at Cortexica. I will be leading Cortexica's part in this project related to hardware and software.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Learn to be a good programmer, learn C++/CUDA, learn to promote your own work, be perseverant and work hard to follow your dreams.

How did your time at University of Plymouth help you?

It completely changed my life and the life of my family too. It allowed me to pursue my dreams and convinced me that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself and you work hard. 

Would you recommend undertaking research at University of Plymouth, and why?

Yes, because Plymouth is a great place to live and study. The city is vibrant and full of possibilities.

iCub robot
Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth