We are at the cusp of a new phase of robotics, where some of what has been promised to us for decades will come to fruition. An example of this is the iCub, a humanoid baby robot that can learn, emulating human cognition and development. This is the field of ‘developmental robotics’: creating robots that can learn and develop their capabilities over time.
Japan is at the forefront of robotics, not least because its working population is rapidly declining and Japanese tend to prefer robots to immigrants. The iCub initiative is a European Commission project – no doubt the EU recognizes the growing importance of robotics, though it is great to see that they are making this an open initiative.
Our main goal is to study cognition through the implementation of a humanoid robot the size of a 3.5 year old child: the iCub. This is an open project in many different ways: we distribute the platform openly, we develop software open-source, and we are open to including new partners and form collaboration worldwide.
All the source files and more can be downloaded from the RobotCub site. The project provides the iCub hardware to various Universities, that can use the base open source code to take the project in whatever direction they choose.
The field of developmental robotics is very exciting – we now have the fundamental technologies in place to make this a real discipline. We cannot quite predict where this will take us, but we are certainly now in the age of robotics.
To round off here are a few nice videos of the iCub learning:
Playing with objects: