Cognitive Universal Body – iCub project
As it is clear that mental processes are significantly shaped by the physical structure of the body and by its interaction with the environment, European Commission is funding a 5 years long opened project related to that issue since 2005. Named RobotCub, the project aims to move this research agenda forward by providing a humanoid toddler platform which can be used to explore and study cognition.
Funded under the Information Society Technologies (IST) priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), RobotCub brings together 11 European research centers, two research centers in the US and three in Japan for a five year period. The partners are either specialized in robotics, neuroscience or developmental psychology.
iCub is a humanoid robot the size of a 3.5 year old child which is 100cm tall and weighs 23kg. It has mechanical joints that enable it to move its head, arms, fingers, eyes and legs similarly to the way that humans do because it’s believed that cognition is very much tied up with the way we interact with the world.
This is an open project in many different ways: the platform is distributed openly, software is developed as open-source, and the project is opened for new partners and form collaboration worldwide.
The team links a computer simulation of a brain to iCub so that it can process information about its environment and send bursts of electrical energy to its motors to allow it to move its arms, head, eyes and fingers to carry out very simple tasks such as lifting a ball and moving it from one place to another.
By now, iCub is able to crawl and walk, make human-like eye and head movements and recognize and grasp objects like a toddler.
A consortium led by the University of Plymouth, a world leader in cognitive robotics research, beat competition from 31 others to win a 5.3m euros grant for the development ofItalk – Integration and Transfer of Action and Language Knowledge in Robots – a project which will enable little iCub to learn to speak.
In the long term, the researches believe their study could help develop a new generation of intelligent factory robots that have much more usefulness. Other great uses would be adjusting personal robots to understand and adjust according to their owner behaviors and habits.