CORDIS - EU research results

ROBotic Open-architecture Technology for Cognition, Understanding and Behaviors

Project description

Cognitive systems
A baby robot to teach and learn from

Robotic dogs, cats and even dinosaurs have tickled public interest in recent years, but what about a robot baby?

The iCub is a crawling, learning android the size of a two-year-old child. Yet it is no toy intended for tech-loving consumers.

The robot is a serious endeavour by international researchers working in the ROBOT-CUB project to investigate artificial cognition – the means by which robots can be made to understand and interact autonomously with the world around them.

The ROBOT-CUB researchers’ work should lead to more advanced robots able to assist and interact with humans, while at the same time helping to deepen our understanding of the cognitive functions of the human brain.

A test bed for research

The iCub is essentially an open test bed for the ROBOT-CUB partners and other researchers around the world to experiment on. With 53 degrees of freedom of movement, the iCub is able to crawl on all fours and sit up, move its head and eyes and use its hands to grasp objects. Cameras and sensors allow it to see, hear and touch.

The robot’s software brain can be made to learn from experience – by observing others and through trial and error, much as a young child does.

The researchers are teaching it to perform complex tasks, such as tracking an object across a room, navigating based on fixed objects around it, and predicting the consequences of how it interacts with an object – skills that humans learn naturally as children.

Available for free to all

The original team that developed the iCub are not alone in using it for research, however. By allowing other researchers around the world to use the robot and to develop their own for free, the ROBOT-CUB project is helping to spur new initiatives using the iCub as a base.

A competition for ideas run by the project partners in 2007 resulted in six research labs being given an iCub on which to experiment.

The new projects range from replicating the functions of certain neurons in the human brain in digital applications to programming the iCub to link verbal commands to physical objects.

The projects are being conducted by labs in Barcelona, London, Paris, Ankara, Munich and Lyon.

iCub’s software coding, along with technical drawings, are free to anyone who wishes to use them.

The software and hardware were designed using a modular system that allows large numbers of researchers to work independently on separate aspects of the robot.

Learning about ourselves

The ROBOT-CUB partners also note that work on artificial cognition in robots could help us better understand how the human brain functions, thanks to crossover research into robotics, psychology and neuroscience in recent years.

Robot-cub scientific goals are: (1) to create and open physical platform for embodied research that can be taken up and used by the research community involved in embodied cognition, and (2) to advance our understanding of several key issues in cognition by exploiting this platform in the investigation of several cognitive capabilities. This will be achieved through a program of experimental research, drawing on our broad multidisciplinary background in human developmental psychology, physiology, cognitive robotics, mechatronics, and perceptual science. To achieve this goals an embodied system will be constructed able to learn how to interact with the environment through manipulation and gesture production/interpretation, and how to develop its perceptual, motor and communication skills to perform goal directed manipulation tasks. The embodied cognitive system (the CUB) will be shaped, physically and mentally, like a human child and it will be designed as an open system. This objective will be achieved by jointly designing the mindware and the hardware: the CUB, with the goal of providing the scientific community with a set of physically instantiated tools indispensable to study cognition. The mindware of Robot-cub will be designed taking inspiration from the way human children progressively learn about their own bodily skills, how to interact with the external world, and eventually how to communicate with other individuals. In order to foster the adoption of the CUB platform by other scientists Robot-cub will use 25% of the budget to: (1) create a support and training site where copies of the platform will be maintained; (2) build several copies of the robotic platform to be used by other laboratories as a part of a research grant resulting from (3) a competitive call for proposals launched to stimulate a second wave of research in cognition. Non-EU groups working on embodied cognition will actively participate in CUB design and scientific decisions.

Call for proposal

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EU contribution
€ 3 405 894,00
16126 Genova

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Nord-Ovest Liguria Genova
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Participants (12)