Robots to now learn from experiences

Tuesday, 29 April 2008, 05:57 Hrs
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London: Robots, like children, will soon learn best from their own experiences, according to a team of EU scientists working on a new robot platform.

The team behind the EU-funded RobotCub project, which designed the iCub robot, discovered that teaching robots to understand enough to act independently is more difficult than initially believed, ScienceDaily reported.

But the technologies developed on the iCub platform - grasping, locomotion and interaction - are relevant to further advances in the field of industrial service robotics.

And it is to make these advances that iCub's are being sent to six European research labs where they are to be trained to learn about their surroundings - just as a child would.

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

Discovered in the early 1990s, these neurons trigger memories of previous experiences when humans are trying to understand the physical actions of others.

Other projects will look at iCub's "cognitive architecture", the dynamics needed for it to achieve full body control, the development of its manipulation skills, its internal simulation techniques - something brains do when planning actions or trying to understand the actions of others, and iCub's ability to link objects with verbal utterances.

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.

Humans develop their abilities to interact with the world around them through their experiences. Small children learn and understand the actions of others by comparing their actions to previous experience.

The developers of iCub want to develop their robots' cognitive capabilities by mimicking that process.

Researchers from the Robotcub project designed the iCub's hardware and software using a modular system.

The design increases the efficiency of the robot, and allows researchers to easily update individual components. It also allows large numbers of researchers to work independently on separate aspects of the robot.

iCub's software coding, along with technical drawings, are free to anyone who wishes to download and use them.

"We really like the idea of being open as it is a way to build a community of many people working towards a common objective," said Giorgio Metta, one of the developers of iCub.
Source: IANS
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