Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What can I, Robot, do with that?

21.04.2008
A new approach to robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to a revolution in the field by shifting the focus from what a thing is to how it can be used. Identifying what a robot is looking at is a key approach of AI and machine cognition. So far ambitious researchers have managed to teach a computer’s vision system to recognise up to 100 objects. Granted, this is a huge achievement, yet far short of an I, Robot scenario.

But there is another radically different approach available that European researchers have applied to the study of robotics and AI. The MACS project does not attempt to get robots to perceive what something is, but how it can be used.

This is an application of the cognitive theory of ‘affordances’, developed by the American psychologist James J. Gibson between 1950 and 1979. He rejected behaviourism and proposed a theory of ‘affordances’, a term signifying the range of possible interactions between an individual and a particular object or environment. The theory focuses on what a thing or environment enables a user to do.

Computer vision might identify the object as a chair, but a system of affordances will instruct the robot that it can be used for sitting. This system is key to the new approach. The system means that once an affordance-perceiving robot ‘sees’ a flat object of a certain height and rigidity, it knows that the object can be used for sitting.

But it also means that an affordance-based robot will be able to determine that the flat object of a certain height and rigidity is too heavy to lift, and must be pushed, and that it can be used to hold a door open.

Ultimately, the aim of goal-oriented, affordance-based machine cognition is to enable a robot to use whatever it finds in its environment to complete a particular task.

“Affordance based perception would look at whether something is graspable, or if there is an opening, rather than worrying about what an object is called,” explains Dr Erich Rome, coordinator of the MACS project.

Five ambitious goals
‘MACS’ stands for multi-sensory autonomous cognitive systems interacting with dynamic environments for perceiving and learning affordances. Started in September 2004, the project began with five scientific and technological goals.

First the researchers sought to create new software architecture to support affordance-based robot control. Second, they wanted to use affordances to direct a robot to complete a goal-directed task. Third, they wanted to establish methods for perceiving, learning and reasoning about affordances.

Next, they wanted to create a system so the robot could acquire knowledge of new affordances through experimentation or observation. Finally the MACS team planned to demonstrate the entire system on a robotic platform called the Kurt3D.

The EU-funded project successfully created an integrated affordance-inspired robot control system. This included the implementation of a perception module, a behaviour system, an execution control module, planner, learning module and affordance representation repository.

The proof-of-concept has been shown in various experiments with the simulator MACSim and in the real robot Kurt3D.

“We performed a physics-based simulation using a model of the robot,” says Rome. We tested single components like perception and learning, and also the entire architecture in simulation. And then we tested the whole system in the robot.”

In that test, Kurt3D used affordance-based perception to identify what could be grasped, where there was free space, and what was traversable. The robot found an object, picked it up, and put it on a pressure-activated switch that controlled a door. Then, once the robot detected the passage, it opened and moved through the door.

The robot improvises
The tests were a remarkable achievement. The robot essentially figured out how to manipulate its environment to achieve a real-world goal. It showed a capacity for improvisation.

“This is the very early stages of this approach,” warns Rome. “So we are a long way from commercialisation. There are others working on it. But what is unique about the MACS project is that we introduced direct support for the affordances concept in our architecture.”

And MACS has also made affordances a more mainstream concept in robotics, perception and cognition. Some of the partners are involved in other projects, like ROSSI, which tracks the relation of language to actions (http://www.rossiproject.eu).

“The project helped generate a lot of interest in the concept and it is also now a very visible topic,” says Rome.

In all, MACS and its work have moved robotics into a new paradigm, teaching robots to identify what they can do.

Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89677

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht NASA CubeSat to test miniaturized weather satellite technology
10.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New approach uses light instead of robots to assemble electronic components
08.11.2017 | The Optical Society

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>