ICRA 2022: Coffee with a Researcher

 How can robots learn to interact with and reason about themselves and the world without an intuitive feel for either? Communication is at the heart of biological and robotic systems. Inspired by control theory, information theory, and neuroscience, early work in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics focused on a class of dynamical system known as feedback systems. These systems are characterized by recurrent mechanisms or feedback loops that govern, regulate, or ‘steer’ the behaviour of the system toward desirable stable states in the presence of disturbance in diverse environments. Feedback between sensation, prediction, decision, action, and back is a critical component of sensorimotor learning needed to realize robust intelligent robotic systems in the wild, a grand challenge of the field. Existing robots are fundamentally numb to the world, limiting their ability to sense themselves and their environment. This problem will only increase as robots grow in complexity, dexterity, and maneuverability, guided by biomimicry. Feedback control systems such as the proportional integral derivative (PID), reinforcement learning (RL), and model predictive control (MPC) are now common in robotics, as is (optimal, Bayesian) Kálmán filtering of point-based IMU-GPS signals. Lacking are the distributed multi-modal, high-dimensional sensations needed to realize general intelligent behaviour, executing complex action sequences through high-level abstractions built up from an intuitive feel or understanding of physics.While the central nervous system and biological neural networks are quantum parallel distributed processing (PDP) engines, most digital artificial neural networks are fully decoupled from sensors and provide only a passive image of the world. We are working to change that by coupling parallel distributed sensing and data processing through a neural paradigm. This involves innovations in hardware, software, and datasets. At Nervosys, we aim to make this dream a reality by building the first nervous system and platform for general robotic intelligence. – Adam Erickson, Founder, Nervosys
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