Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

BabyBot takes first steps

03.05.2006


Babybot learn to take first steps ©ADAPT


BabyBot, a robot modelled on the torso of a two year-old child, is helping researchers take the first, tottering steps towards understanding human perception, and could lead to the development of machines that can perceive and interact with their environment.

The researchers used BabyBot to test a model of the human sense of ’presence’, a combination of senses like sight, hearing and touch. The work could have enormous applications in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine perception. The research is being funded under the European Commission’s FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) initiative of the IST programme, as part of the ADAPT project.

"Our sense of presence is essentially our consciousness," says Giorgio Metta, Assistant Professor at the Laboratory for Integrated Advanced Robotics at Italy’s Genoa University and ADAPT project coordinator.



Modelling, or defining, consciousness remains one of the intractable problems of both science and philosophy. "The problem is duality, where does the brain end and the mind begin, the question is whether we need to consider them as two different aspects of reality," says Metta.

Neuroscientists would tend to develop theories that fit the observed phenomena, but engineers take a practical approach. Their objective is to make it work.

To that end, ADAPT first studied how the perception of self in the environment emerges during the early stages of human development. So developmental psychologists tested 6 to 18 month-old infants. "We could control a lot of the parameters to see how young children perceive and interact with the world around them. What they do when interacting with their mothers or strangers, what they see, the objects they interact with, for example," says Metta.

From this work they developed a ’process’ model of consciousness. This assumes that objects in the environment are not real physical objects as such; rather they are part of a process of perception.

The practical upshot is that, while other models describe consciousness as perception, cognition then action, the ADAPT model sees it as action, cognition then perception. And it’s how babies act, too.

When a baby sees an object that is not the final perception of it. A young child will then try to reach the object. If the child fails, the object is too far away. This teaches the child perspective. If the child does reach the object, he or she will try to grasp it, or taste it or shake it. These actions all teach the child about the object and govern its perception of it. It is a cumulative process rather than a single act.

Our expectations also have enormous influence on our perception. For example, if you believe an empty pot is full, you will lift the pot very quickly. Your muscles unconsciously prepare for the expected resistance, and put more force than is required into lifting; everyday proof that our expectations govern our relationship with the environment.

Or at least that’s the model. "It’s not validated. It’s a starting point to understand the problem," says Metta.

The team used BabyBot to test it, providing a minimal set of instructions, just enough for BabyBot to act on the environment. For the senses, the team used sound, vision and touch, and focused on simple objects within the environment.

There were two experiments, one where BabyBot could touch an object and second one where it could grasp the object. This is more difficult than it sounds. If you look at a scene, you unconsciously segment the scene into separate elements.

This is a highly developed skill, but by simply interacting with the environment the BabyBot did its engineering parents proud when it demonstrated that it could learn to successfully separate objects from the background.

Once the visual scene was segmented, the robot could start learning about specific properties of objects useful, for instance, to grasp them. Grasping opens a wider world to the robot and to young infants too.

The work was successful, but it was a very early proof-of-principle for their approach. The sense of presence, or consciousness, is a huge problem and ADAPT did not seek to solve it in one project. They made a very promising start and many of the partners will take part in a new IST project, called ROBOTCUB.

In ROBOTCUB the engineers will refine their robot so that it can see, hear and touch its environment. Eventually it will be able to crawl, too.

"Ultimately, this work will have a huge range of applications, from virtual reality, robotics and AI, to psychology and the development of robots as tools for neuro-scientific research," concludes Metta.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.europa.eu.int/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/81616
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Fighting myocardial infarction with nanoparticle tandems
04.12.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Virtual Reality for Bacteria
01.12.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>