Imperial College London (UCL) scientists say that a humanoid robot called iCub will help advance research into human cognition, perception, reasoning, and judgment. The researchers are investigating how humans use cognition to interact with the world. The iCub, which is about the size of a three-year-old child and has a human-like body, has mechanical joints that enable it to move its head, arms, fingers, eyes, and legs similarly to humans. UCL professor Murray Shanahan says the iCub’s human-like functions are important because cognition is closely related to how we interact with the world. “Nature developed cognition for us in order to make us better at interacting with the physical and social world,” Shanahan says. “If we want to understand the nature of cognition better then we really need to understand it in the context of something that moves or interacts with objects. That is where iCub can help us.” The researchers are developing a computer simulation of a brain that will be linked to iCub to allow it to process information about the environment and perform simple tasks. If the research is successful, it will mark an important step toward reproducing how humans use cognition and interact with the world, Shanahan says. “If we can test our theories about cognition by building and experimenting with robots, then we may just be one step closer to really beginning to understand what makes us tick,” he says.
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