Simulating infant development


One of our delegates, James Wilson, seen here posing in a giant hamster wheel. Usually spends his time at Aberystwyth University constructing robotic models of infant development, in the hope that we will gain greater insights into both. When you think about it it’s a brilliant approach. As researchers in Artificial Intelligence we spend a lot of time inventing weird and wonderful learning algorithms. Instead, we could save a lot of time by trying to copy what we find in nature, infant development is a perfect example of this.

Infants are capable of incredible feats of learning and they start before they are even born. In the womb, unable to see, they move their limbs developing a sense of co-ordination. Back in Aberystwyth this is modelled by having infant robots move around completely blind, through trial and error they learn how to co-ordinate themselves and discover the limits of their physical abilities. Then they are “born”, suddenly given a sense of sight and a complex environment they are not overwhelmed because they have already developed an initial sense of self. The success of these robots, helps to develop greater insights into infant development. Establishing these beneficial symbiotic relationships between nature and simulation is one of the key goals of AI. Better robots lead to a greater understanding of nature, which leads to better robots.


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