Child's play

The iCub robot.

The iCub robot.

16 February 2011

New humanoid robot to ‘learn’ like a child

The Developmental Robotics Group, part of the Department of Computer Science, has taken delivery of a state-of-the art humanoid robot, one of only four in the UK, as part of its work on a European research project.

The “IM-CLeVeR” (Intrinsically Motivated Cumulative Learning Versatile Robots) project aims to develop new robot controllers based on ideas inspired by neuroscience and psychology.  

The project is funded by the European Union to the tune of 5.9m Euros with the Aberystwyth team receiving £760,000.

The project involves 10 partner institutions from across Europe working in fields including robotics, neuroscience, developmental psychology and machine learning. 

It hopes that by using a multidisciplinary approach it will be able to make robots which can learn in more flexible ways than those programmed using traditional methods.

Research in the Developmental Robotics Group is focused on identifying processes of development in infants and translating them into strategies for learning in robotics.

A main focus is on constraints in infant development, which prevent the infant from accessing certain abilities before others have been sufficiently mastered. 

By implementing similar constraints on their robot, the group believes that it can overcome the problems of sensory overload that impede other robotic learning systems.

The iCub robot, which has been built in Italy, has been designed to have a similar size and range of motions to a young child. 

Researchers at Aberystwyth will use it as a platform to test and demonstrate their theories, and on which to integrate the research of other teams within the IM-CLeVeR project. 

Dr James Law, member of the Developmental Robotics Group said: “Development in infancy is strongly linked to the body of the child. With this robot we can investigate how infants progressively build their skills, using their bodies to manipulate and learn about their environment.”

The IM-CLeVeR team at Aberystwyth consists of Professor Mark Lee (Team Leader), Dr Martin Hülse, Dr James Law, and Dr Patricia Shaw.

The partner institutions in the project are:
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy
Universita Campus Bio Medico di Roma, Italy
Stiftung Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Germany
Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland
University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Aberystwyth University, United Kingdom
University of Ulster, United Kingdom