Tutorial on Embodiment

1.1. Outline and Further Reading


We will proceed as follows. First, we will look at traditional Artificial Intelligence (AI), which followed a largely disembodied approach. We will identify its successes and also its problems to set ground for the rest of the tutorial which focuses on embodied AI or embodied cognitive science. Second, with the help of numerous robot and animal case studies, we will illustrate how embodiment can be exploited for locomotion and for grasping. Third, we will move from the direct physical implications of embodiment to the impact it has on informational processes in an organism. The information that reaches the brain is very much shaped by the agent's morphology and by its sensory-motor interaction with the environment. Fourth and last, we will illustrate that embodiment plays a constitutive role in cognition and we will also argue for a developmental perspective on cognition. As we proceed, we will embed the diverse case studies into a theoretical scheme and we will also employ this scheme in exercises.

Further Reading

A freely available text that provided a skeleton for this tutorial is:

Hoffmann, M. & Pfeifer, R. (2011), The implications of embodiment for behavior and cognition: animal and robotic case studies, in W. Tschacher & C. Bergomi, ed., 'The Implications of Embodiment: Cognition and Communication', Exeter: Imprint Academic, pp. 31-58. [arxiv link]


Many parts of this tutorial cite or refer to these two books: "Understanding Intelligence" and "How the Body Shapes the Way We Think". Click on a book to go to its respective website:


How the Body Shapes the Way We Think
A New View of Intelligence

Rolf Pfeifer and Josh C. Bongard
Foreword by Rodney Brooks, MIT Press 2007


Understanding Intelligence
Rolf Pfeifer and Christian Scheier
MIT Press 1999

How the Body Shapes the Way We Think is also available in Japanese and Chinese. Additionally, the English version is available as an eBook.

Science Press, 2009     Kyouritsu Shuppan, 2010     eBook (English), 2011