Navigation path

Themes
Agriculture & food
Energy
Environment
ERA-NET
Health & life sciences
Human resources & mobility
Industrial research
Information society
Innovation
International cooperation
Nanotechnology
Pure sciences
Research infrastructures
Research policy
Science & business
Science in society
Security
SMEs
Social sciences and humanities
Space
Special Collections
Transport

Countries
Countries
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Finland
  France
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece
  Hungary
  Iceland
  India
  Ireland
  Israel
  Italy
  Japan
  Kazakhstan
  Kenya
  Korea
  Latvia
  Lithuania
  Luxembourg
  Malta
  Mexico
  Montenegro
  Morocco
  Namibia
  Netherlands
  Nigeria
  Norway
  Peru
  Poland
  Portugal
  Romania
  Russia
  Senegal
  Serbia
  Slovakia
  Slovenia
  South Africa
  Spain
  Swaziland
  Sweden
  Switzerland
  Taiwan
  Tunisia
  Turkey
  Ukraine
  United Kingdom
  United States


This page was published on 08/06/2009
Published: 08/06/2009

   All

Last Update: 08-06-2009  
Related category(ies):
Information society  |  Success stories  |  Science in society

 

Add to PDF "basket"

The robot child

One method to truly understand how something works is to build a replica. It is an idea that has been in practice for centuries and is now being used by a team of European researchers wanting to understand how humans learn. The result is a small robot named iCub that will eventually be able to learn like a two-year-old child.

Video in QuickTime format:  ar  de  en  es  fr  it  pt  ru  (17 MB)

The iCub prototype has been developed over the last three years at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova. The research robot has been designed to be able to interact with its environment. Its hands can manipulate objects and its eyes can move without having to turn its head. Part of its software, known as the attention system, processes the images “seen” by the robot and filters for things in its environment that could be of interest (for example, faces, moving hands or something that is very bright or colourful).

The European project, RobotCub, which has lead to the creation of iCub involves experts in neuroscience, psychology and robotics. They want to build a humanoid cognitive system in order to investigate the theory that the learning process in humans is the result of physical interaction with their environment. This is why the robots physical design and sophisticated hands are so important; to learn like a human it should also be able to interact like a human.

It was decided not to model iCub on an adult, so the engineers set out to copy the body and intellectual capabilities of a 2-year-old child. Asides from the fact that adult intelligence is extremely complicated, it is hoped that the robot will be able to develop and better itself over time through learning and problem solving.

Help on understanding how children learn came from Sweden. Claes von Hofsten is a professor in psychology at the Uppsala University and has spent 30 years studying infant development. His task in the RobotCub project was to create a so-called “cognitive roadmap” - showing the kinds of cognitive abilities the robot should develop and what abilities need to be built into the robot.

Claes von Hofsten established various developments of awareness, perception and reasoning in babies that will be required as basic features of iCub. For example, in one experiment the professor analysed the eye movements of a 6-month-old baby watching a film. This showed that the robot should be able to direct its attention and track moving objects. Another experiment, in which another 6-month-old baby learned to catch a toy, shows the robotic engineers that iCub must be able to make simple predictions.

Establishing these basic cognitive skills is no easy task for the robotics team in Genova. Giorgio Metta, robotics professor at the Italian Institute of Technology, cites two major problems facing them: firstly, the artificial vision and, secondly, the ability to learn from its mistakes.

Upon completion, the robot will be put into use as a research tool. There are already orders for iCubs from 19 European research institutions. It is also being used as a common and practical platform for open source software and hardware. But the iCub prototype that has been built is just the beginning of a scientific and technological challenge, leading to a better understanding of ourselves and how we learn.

Further information

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also

Futuris, the European research programme - on Euronews. The video on this page was prepared in collaboration with Euronews for the Futuris programme.

Contacts
Jan Hens
European Commission,
Information Society and Media DG,
Information and Communication Assistant,
Information and Communication Unit (S3),
Tel.: +32 2 29 68855
Email: jan.hens@ec.europa.eu

Unit A1 - External & internal communication,
Directorate-General for Research & Innovation,
European Commission
Tel : +32 2 298 45 40
  Top   Research Information Center