FLOWERS Research team
Flowing Epigenetic Robots and Systems
Team presentationThe objective of the FLOWERS exploratory action is to build and study mechanisms that allow machines and robots to learn new skills and interact in unknown changing physical and social environments. The approach is to extract concepts and mechanisms from developmental psychology (Piaget, Vygotski, Berlyne, Gibson...) and import them in operational robotic models, so that robots explore and learn new things in ways that are similar to the developing human child. Hence, this research takes place in the emerging field of developmental/epigenetic robotics and situated embodied cognition. The general hypothesis is that such an approach shall set the stage for new kinds of mechanisms allowing robots and machines to be much more robust when faced with unknown spaces and tasks that are not always known in advance by the engineer(s) who conceive them. Moreover, operationalizing and implementing developmental psychology theories gives in return the opportunity to test empirically their internal coherence. Among the developmental principles that characterize human infants and can be used in developmental robots, FLOWERS focuses on the following three principles:
- Exploration is progressive . The space of skills that can be learnt in real world sensorimotor spaces is so large and complicated that not everything can be learnt at the same time. Simple skills are learnt first, and only when they are mastered, new skills of progressively increasing difficulty become the behavioural focus;
- Internal representations are (partially) not innate but learnt and adaptive . For example, the body map, the distinction self/non-self and the concept of “object” are discovered through experience with initially uninterpreted sensors and actuators;
- Exploration can be self-guided and/or socially guided . On the one hand, internal and intrinsic motivation systems regulate and organize spontaneous exploration; on the other hand, exploration can be guided through social learning and interaction with caretakers.
Research themesThe work of FLOWERS is organized around the following three axis:
- Intrinsically motivated exploration and learning: intrinsic motivation are mechanisms that have been identified by developmental psychologists to explain important forms of spontaneous exploration and curiosity. In FLOWERS, we try to develop computational intrinsic motivation systems and test them on robots, allowing to regulate the growth of complexity in exploratory behaviours. These mechanisms are also studied as active learning mechanisms, allowing to learn efficiently in large inhomogeneous sensorimotor spaces;
- Natural and intuitive social learning: FLOWERS develops interaction frameworks and learning mechanisms allowing non-engineer humans to teach a robot naturally. This involves two sub-themes: - techniques allowing for natural and intuitive human-robot interaction, including simple ergonomic interfaces for establishing joint attention ; - learning mechanisms that allow the robot to use the guidance hints provided by the human to teach new skills;
- Discovering and abstracting the structure of sets of uninterpreted sensors and motors: FLOWERS studies mechanisms that allow a robot to infer structural information out of sets of sensorimotor channels whose semantics is unknown, such as for example the topology of the body and the sensorimotor contingencies (propriocetive, visual and acoustic).