Tutorial on Embodiment

5.3.3. Cognitive development and the iCub humanoid robot


Whereas in the previous section that addressed the development of cognition we have mostly focused on humans and animals, in this section we present the infant robot iCub. This robot is the outcome of a European project (RobotCub) and it provides a platform to study the development of cognition (Metta et al. 2008).


Video The infant robot iCub switching attention while being repaired.

We recommend the reader to watch a lecture by David Vernon that provides an overview. At the same time, it provides a recapitulation of many of the points that we have come across so far:

  • Embodiment plays a constitutive role in cognition. Vernon advocates an emergent, embodied and enactive perspective, as opposed to functionalism, where the body is a mere platfrom on which cognition is running (cf. Section "Cognitive science paradigms").
  • Breaking the "here and now barrier", that is being able to predict/plan/anticipate brings behavioral advantage to the agent and at the same time provides a smooth transition to cognition (cf. Section Body schema and forward models).
  • Learning is a process in which action plays a key part. Active learning is thus different than statistical machine learning (cf. Section Information self-structuring through sensory-motor coordination)


Online Lecture:

David Vernon
University of Genoa
Cognitive Development and the iCub Humanoid Robot
EUCogII Conference, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 29.01.2010


Metta, G.; Sandini, G.; Vernon, D.; Natale, L. & Nori, F. (2008), The iCub humanoid robot: an open platform for research in embodied cognition, in 'Proc. 8th Workshop on Performance Metrics for Intelligent Systems (PerMIS)'.