Monday, May 28, 2012

Embodied Cognition and iCub

An iCub robot mounted on a supporting frame. The robot is 104 cm high and weighs around 22 kg
An iCub is a 1 metre high humanoid robot testbed for research into human cognition and artificial intelligence.

Systems that perceive, understand and act

It was designed by the RobotCub Consortium, of several European universities and is now supported by other projects such as ITALK.[1] The robot is open-source, with the hardware design, software and documentation all released under the GPL license. The name is a partial acronym, cub standing for Cognitive Universal Body.[2] Initial funding for the project was 8.5 million from Unit E5 – Cognitive Systems and Robotics – of the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme, and this ran for six years from 1 September 2004 until 1 September 2010.[2]

The motivation behind the strongly humanoid design is the embodied cognition hypothesis, that human-like manipulation plays a vital role in the development of human cognition. A baby learns many cognitive skills by interacting with its environment and other humans using its limbs and senses, and consequently its internal model of the world is largely determined by the form of the human body. The robot was designed to test this hypothesis by allowing cognitive learning scenarios to be acted out by an accurate reproduction of the perceptual system and articulation of a small child so that it could interact with the world in the same way that such a child does.[3]

 See Also: RoboCub

In philosophy, the embodied mind thesis holds that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. Philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists and artificial intelligence researchers who study embodied cognition and the embodied mind argue that all aspects of cognition are shaped by aspects of the body. The aspects of cognition include high level mental constructs (such as concepts and categories) and human performance on various cognitive tasks (such as reasoning or judgement). The aspects of the body include the motor system, the perceptual system, the body's interactions with the environment (situatedness) and the ontological assumptions about the world that are built into the body and the brain.

The embodied mind thesis is opposed to other theories of cognition such as cognitivism, computationalism and Cartesian dualism.[1] The idea has roots in Kant and 20th century continental philosophy (such as Merleau-Ponty). The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, robotics and neurobiology.

Embodied cognition is a topic of research in social and cognitive psychology, covering issues such as social interaction and decision-making.[2] Embodied cognition reflects the argument that the motor system influences our cognition, just as the mind influences bodily actions. For example, when participants hold a pencil in their teeth engaging the muscles of a smile, they comprehend pleasant sentences faster than unpleasant ones.[3] And it works in reverse: holding a pencil in their teeth to engage the muscles of a frown increases the time it takes to comprehend pleasant sentences.[3]

George Lakoff (a cognitive scientist and linguist) and his collaborators (including Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, and Rafael E. Núñez) have written a series of books promoting and expanding the thesis based on discoveries in cognitive science, such as conceptual metaphor and image schema.[4]
Robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks, Hans Moravec and Rolf Pfeifer have argued that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by machines that have sensory and motor skills and are connected to the world through a body.[5] The insights of these robotics researchers have in turn inspired philosophers like Andy Clark and Horst Hendriks-Jansen.[6]

Neuroscientists Gerald Edelman, António Damásio and others have outlined the connection between the body, individual structures in the brain and aspects of the mind such as consciousness, emotion, self-awareness and will.[7] Biology has also inspired Gregory Bateson, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Eleanor Rosch and Evan Thompson to develop a closely related version of the idea, which they call enactivism.[8] The motor theory of speech perception proposed by Alvin Liberman and colleagues at the Haskins Laboratories argues that the identification of words is embodied in perception of the bodily movements by which spoken words are made.[9][10][11][12][13]

The mind-body problem is a philosophical problem arising in the fields of metaphysics and philosophy of mind.[2] The problem arises because mental phenomena arguably differ, qualitatively or substantially, from the physical body on which they apparently depend. There are a few major theories on the resolution of the problem. Dualism is the theory that the mind and body are two distinct substances,[2] and monism is the theory that they are, in reality, just one substance. Monist materialists (also called physicalists) take the view that they are both matter, and monist idealists take the view that they are both in the mind. Neutral monists take the view that both are reducible to a third, neutral substance.

The problem was identified by René Descartes in the sense known by the modern Western world, although the issue was also addressed by pre-Aristotelian philosophers,[3] in Avicennian philosophy,[4] and in earlier Asian traditions.

A dualist view of reality may lead one to consider the corporeal as little valued[3] and trivial. The rejection of the mind–body dichotomy is found in French Structuralism, and is a position that generally characterized post-war French philosophy.[5] The absence of an empirically identifiable meeting point between the non-physical mind and its physical extension has proven problematic to dualism and many modern philosophers of mind maintain that the mind is not something separate from the body.[6] These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, particularly in the fields of sociobiology, computer science, evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences.[7][8][9][10]
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