Friday, August 30, 2013

Cognitive Architecture for Social Human-Robot Interaction

It's now the last day of the summer school in Cambridge, and it's been a very interesting if packed week of talks, activities and discussions. Just what a summer school should be in my opinion.

I gave my little special session talk yesterday to a little group (all 25-30 of them, to whom I am grateful for not leaving when I invited them to do so towards the beginning of my talk*). It was an introductory overview of the application of cognitive architectures to the development of autonomous systems for social human-robot interaction. Here's the abstract I used to try and draw people in:
What is Cognitive Architecture and why is it important for HRI? The ongoing developments towards social companion robots raises questions of information integration, behavioural control, etc, in coordination and collaboration with humans. While introducing cognitive architecture, I will emphasise fundamental organisation and common operating principles, specifically based on inspiration from human cognition: learning from the agents with which the robots must socially interact. In this special interest session, these issues will be explored, taking in examples from existing architectures along the way. I would like to put forward the idea that a consideration of Social HRI from the perspective of cognitive architecture enables a different take on the design of social robots - one that emphasises holistic human-robot interacting systems. In doing so, the intention is to leave participants with more questions than are answered, in the hope that some of the issues raised find themselves being further developed in ongoing work.
It was only a short talk, and I intentionally focused on the motivations for wanting to do so, rather than trying to persuade people to use one particular approach or another (even refraining from mentioning my own views on the matter as much as possible). Nevertheless, we had some interesting little discussions, including one on the nature of organisation of behaviour: there were a few people who insisted that the classic "perception -> cognition -> action" pipeline model was the only thing that needed to be considered. While I respectfully disagreed (as does a great deal of the literature on robotics, enaction, active perception, embodied cognition, etc), it did remind me that this assumption does seem to be implicit in many different perspectives, whether cognitive architecture or not.

In any case: we've just had a great talk from Prof. Roger Moore (Uni Sheffield) on the motivation and basis for his mathematical model of the Uncanny Valley effect as very well known in the popular media. Well worth a look at the paper, as it has a number of fundamental consequences for the HRI domain.

* I always start my talks with the conclusion...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer School and Research Details

The Summer School on Social Human-Robot Interaction is now in full swing! Great talks so far, and some really good hands-on sessions. Last night was a workshop given by Aardman Animations on building models with plasticine - brilliant fun, and a nice insight on how to give the illusion of life to inanimate objects, which is of course a goal of social robotics research!

...see #hrisummerschool on Twitter...

And in other news, I've finally started to update my Research Details page, on which I outline in a little more detail the general research themes I am interested in. Please wander along and have a look!