The objective of VHIA is to elaborate a holistic computational paradigm of perception and of perception-action loops. We plan to develop a completely novel twofold approach: (i) learn from mappings between auditory/visual inputs and structured outputs, and from sensorimotor contingencies, and (ii) execute perception-action interaction cycles in the real world with a humanoid robot. VHIA will achieve a unique fine coupling between methodological findings and proof-of-concept implementations using the consumer humanoid NAO manufactured in Europe. The proposed multimodal approach is in strong contrast with current computational paradigms influenced by unimodal biological theories. These theories have hypothesized a modular view, postulating quasi-independent and parallel perceptual pathways in the brain. VHIA will also take a radically different view than today's audiovisual fusion models that rely on clean-speech signals and on accurate frontal-images of faces; These models assume that videos and sounds are recorded with hand-held or head-mounted sensors, and hence there is a human in the loop who intentionally supervises perception and interaction. Our approach deeply contradicts the belief that complex and expensive humanoids (often manufactured in Japan) are required to implement research ideas. VHIA's methodological program addresses extremely difficult issues: how to build a joint audiovisual space from heterogeneous, noisy, ambiguous and physically different visual and auditory stimuli, how to model seamless interaction, how to deal with high-dimensional input data, and how to achieve robust and efficient human-humanoid communication tasks through a well-thought tradeoff between offline training and online execution. VHIA bets on the high-risk idea that in the next decades, social robots will have a considerable economical impact, and there will be millions of humanoids, in our homes, schools and offices, which will be able to naturally communicate with us.
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