Section: Partnerships and Cooperations

European Initiatives

Collaborations in European Programs, ERC

  • Program: ERC Starting Grant

  • Project acronym: EXPLORERS

  • Project title: Exploring Epigenetic Robotics: Raising Intelligence in Machines

  • Duration: 12/2009-11/2014

  • Coordinator: Pierre-Yves Oudeyer

  • Abstract: In spite of considerable and impressive work in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and pattern recognition in the past 50 years, we have no machine capable of adapting to the physical and social environment with the flexibility, robustness and versatility of a 6-months old human child. Instead of trying to simulate directly the adult’s intelligence, EXPLORERS proposes to focus on the developmental processes that give rise to intelligence in infants by re-implementing them in machines. Framed in the developmental/epigenetic robotics research agenda, and grounded in research in human developmental psychology, its main target is to build robotic machines capable of autonomously learning and re-using a variety of skills and know-how that were not specified at design time, and with initially limited knowledge of the body and of the environment in which it will operate. This implies several fundamental issues: How can a robot discover its body and its relationships with the physical and social environment? How can it learn new skills without the intervention of an engineer? What internal motivations shall guide its exploration of vast spaces of skills? Can it learn through natural social interactions with humans? How to represent the learnt skills and how can they be re-used? EXPLORERS attacks directly those questions by proposing a series of scientific and technological advances: 1) we will formalize and implement sophisticated systems of intrinsic motivation, responsible of organized spontaneous exploration in humans, for the regulation of the growth of complexity of learning situations; 2) intrinsic motivation systems will be used to drive the learning of forward/anticipative sensorimotor models in high-dimensional multimodal spaces, as well as the building of reusable behavioural macros; 3) intrinsically motivated exploration will be coupled with social guidance from non-engineer humans; 4) an information- theoretic framework will complement intrinsically motivated exploration to allow for the inference of body maps; 5) we will show how learnt basic sensorimotor skills can be re-used to learn the meaning of early concrete words, pushing forward human-robot mutual understanding. Furthermore, we will setup large scale experiments, in order to show how these advances can allow a high-dimensional multimodal robot to learn collections of skills continuously in a weeks-to-months time scale. This project not only addresses fundamental scientific questions, but also relates to important societal issues: personal home robots are bound to become part of everyday life in the 21st century, in particular as helpful social companions in an aging society. EXPLORERS’ objectives converge to the challenges implied by this vision: robots will have to be able to adapt and learn new skills in the unknown homes of users who are not engineers. The ERC EXPLORERS is a central scientific driver of the FLOWERS team.