AI News, Robots for Real: Lessons From a Mechanical Child

Robots for Real: Lessons From a Mechanical Child

This segment is part of the special report 'Engineers of the New Millennium: Robots for Real.'

Infants gnaw, lick, grab, prod, and crawl their way into awareness of the world and of themselves.

That's the question posed by RobotCub, an initiative whose goal is to study cognitive function by building a humanoid, childlike robot, known as iCub.

But if you have a humanoid robot, you have to move maybe, say, seven joints in each leg plus seven joints in the arm, so that means 28 joints that you have to coordinate properly.

Before that, the scientists used computers to explore principles like gravity and friction that are important in crawling.

Then they tested simple arm movements on an existing robot by having it pound a drum.

Giselle Weiss: Eventually, in 2008, a robot with legs became available in Genoa, Italy, and one of Ijspeert's students took it for a crawl.

Giselle Weiss: The researchers are interested in three major questions: How does the brain build a model of its own body?

Giselle Weiss: The scientists will also study the kind of nonverbal information we can only get through touching, as when a tennis coach lifts the elbow of a player to correct a stroke.