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Salon: Robot toddler could unlock secrets of human development

January 11, 2013

From Salon.com:

Robotics, neuroscience, developmental psychology, and machine learning have converged in a new project led by University of California San Diego researchers. Meet Diego-san, a robotic one-year-old that “learns” to move and interact the same way a real baby does — by watching you.

Besides bringing us that much closer to the uncanny valley, Diego-san is also providing a deeper understanding of sensory motor and social intelligence in children.

From Phys.org

“Its main goal is to try and understand the development of sensory motor intelligence from a computational point of view,” explained principal investigator Movellan in a 2010 Q&A with the Japan-based PlasticPals blog. “It brings together researchers in developmental psychology, machine learning, neuroscience, computer vision and robotics. Basically we are trying to understand the computational problems that a baby’s brain faces when learning to move its own body and use it to interact with the physical and social worlds.” The researchers are interested in studying Diego-san’s interaction with the physical world via reaching, grasping, etc., and with the social world through pointing, smiling and other gestures or facial expressions. As outlined in the original proposal to the NSF, the project is “grounded in developmental research with human infants, using motion capture and computer vision technology to characterize the statistics of early physical and social interaction. An important goal is to foster the conceptual shifts needed to rigorously think, explore, and formalize intelligent architectures that learn and develop autonomously by interaction with the physical and social worlds.”

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