Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Piecing together the next generation of cognitive robots

Building robots with anything akin to human intelligence remains a far off vision, but European researchers are making progress on piecing together a new generation of machines that are more aware of their environment and better able to interact with humans.

Making robots more responsive would allow them to be used in a greater variety of sophisticated tasks in the manufacturing and service sectors. Such robots could be used as home helpers and caregivers, for example.

As research into artificial cognitive systems (ACS) has progressed in recent years it has grown into a highly fragmented field. Some researchers and teams have concentrated on machine vision, others on spatial cognition, and on human-robot interaction, among many other disciplines.

All have made progress, but, as the EU-funded project CoSy (Cognitive Systems for Cognitive Assistants) has shown, by working together the researchers can make even more advances in the field.

“We have brought together one of the broadest and most varied teams of researchers in this field,” says Geert-Jan Kruijff, the CoSy project manager at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence. “This has resulted in an ACS architecture that integrates multiple cognitive functions to create robots that are more self-aware, understand their environment and can better interact with humans.”

The CoSy ACS is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. It incorporates a range of technologies from a design for cognitive architecture, spatial cognition, human-robot interaction and situated dialogue processing, to developmental models of visual processing.

“We have learnt how to put the pieces of ACS together, rather than just studying them separately,” adds Jeremy Wyatt, one of the project managers at the UK’s University of Birmingham.

The researchers have made the ACS architecture toolkit they developed available under an open source license. They want to encourage further research. The toolkit has already sparked several spin-off initiatives.

Overcoming the integration challenge
“The integration of different components in an ACS is one of the greatest challenges in robotics,” Kruijff says. “Getting robots to understand their environment from visual inputs and to interact with humans from spoken commands and relate what is said to their environment is enormously complex.”

Because of the complexity most robots developed to date have tended to be reactive. They simply react to their environment rather than act in it autonomously. Similar to a beetle that scuttles away when prodded, many mobile robots back off when they collide with an object, but have little self-awareness or understanding of the space around them and what they can do there.

In comparison, a demonstrator called the Explorer developed by the CoSy team has a more human-like understanding of its environment. Explorer can even talk about its surroundings with a human.

Instead of using just geometric data to create a map of its surroundings, the Explorer also incorporates qualitative, topographical information. Through interaction with humans it can then learn to recognise objects, spaces and their uses. For example, if it sees a coffee machine it may reason that it is in a kitchen. If it sees a sofa it may conclude it is in a living room.

“The robot sees a room much as humans see it because it has a conceptual understanding of space,” Kruijff notes.

Another demonstrator, called the PlayMate, applied machine vision and spatial recognition in a different context. PlayMate uses a robotic arm to manipulate objects in response to human instructions.

In Wyatt’s view the development of machine vision and its integration with other ACS components is still a big obstacle to creating more advanced robots, especially if the goal is to replicate human sight and awareness.

“Don’t underestimate how sophisticated we are…,” he says. “We don’t realise how agile our brains are at interpreting what we see. You can pick out colours from a scene, look at a bottle of water, a packet of cornflakes, or a coffee mug and know what activities each of them allows. You recognise them, see where to grasp them, and how to manipulate them, and you do it all seamlessly. We are still so very, very far from doing that with robots.”

Robotic ‘gofers’
Fortunately, replicating human-like intelligence and awareness, if it is indeed possible, is not necessary when creating robots that are useful to humans.

Kruijff foresees robots akin to those developed in the CoSy project becoming an everyday sight over the coming years in what he describes as ‘gofer scenarios’. Already some robots with a lower level of intelligence are being used to bring medicines to patients in hospitals and could be used to transport documents around office buildings.

Robotic vacuum cleaners are becoming increasingly popular in homes, as too are toys that incorporate artificial intelligence. And the creation of robots that are able to interact with people opens the door to robotic home helpers and caregivers.

“In the future people may all be waited on by robots in their old age,” Wyatt says.

Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Fraunhofer FIT joins Facebook's Telecom Infra Project
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions
21.10.2016 | Stanford University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>