Next step in robot development is child’s play

April 26th, 2008 - 3:35 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, April 26 (IANS) Teaching robots to understand enough about the real world to allow them to act independently has proved to be more difficult than first thought. The technologies developed on the iCub platform - such as grasping, locomotion, interaction, language-action association - are of great relevance to further advances in the field of industrial service robotics.

The EU-funded RobotCub project, which designed the iCub, will send one each to six European research labs. Each of the labs proposed winning projects to help train the robots to learn about their surroundings - just as a child would.

The six projects include one from Imperial College London that will explore how ‘mirror neurons’ found in the human brain can be translated into a digital application.

‘Mirror neurons’, discovered in the early 1990s, trigger memories of previous experiences when humans are trying to understand the physical actions of others. A separate team at Barcelona will also work on iCub’s ‘cognitive architecture’.

At the same time, a team headquartered in Paris will explore the dynamics needed to achieve full body control for iCub.

Researchers at Munich will work on the development of iCub’s manipulation skills.

A project team from the University of Lyons will explore internal simulation techniques - something our brains do when planning actions or trying to understand the actions of others.

Over in Turkey, a team based in Ankara will focus almost exclusively on language acquisition and the iCub’s ability to link objects with verbal utterances, reports Sciencedaily.

“The six winners had to show they could really use and maintain the robot, and secondly the project had to exploit the capabilities of the robot,” said Giorgio Metta, one of the developers of iCub. “Looking at the proposals from the winners, it was clear that if we gave them a robot we would get something in return.”

The iCub robots are about the size of three-year-old children, with highly dexterous hands and fully articulated heads and eyes. They have hearing and touch capabilities and are designed to be able to crawl on all fours and to sit up.

Once the assembly of the six robots for the research projects is completed, the developers plan to build more iCubs, creating between 15 and 20 in use around Europe.

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