The term "cognitive robotics" is used to refer to robots with higher level cognitive functions that involve knowledge representation and reasoning. Several projects are currently undertaken in this area in collaboration with psychologists and neuroscientists from European institutions such as IIT in Genoa and Ferrara, Italy.
Our research consist of endowing robots with some cognitive capabilities which are key elements to autonomous systems, such as perception processing, attention allocation, anticipation, planning, reasoning about other agents, and perhaps reasoning about their own mental states.
Examples of projects undertaken in the lab in this area are:
We have actively participated in the development of the state-of-the-art European cognitive platform "humanoid robot" RobotCUB. The "iCub" is a child-like crawling robot that resembles a two-and-a-half-year-old child. The ultimate goal of this project is provide the cognition research community with an open human-like platform for the understanding of cognitive systems through the study of cognitive development. This work is supported by the European Commission FP6, Project IST-004370. Researchers at Salford developed the mechanics, electronics and control of the spine and legs of the iCub. The complete development leaded to numerous publications, in the mechanics as well as in control systems topics.
Additionally, our resources include NAO humanoid robots (Aldebaran Robotics) for research and development of a wide range of algorithms, ranging from modelling Cognitive functions of cognitive robotics to walking algorithms and visual signal processing.
Traditional robot design has been concerned primarily with the development of structures and mechanisms that have high accuracy and speed but at the expense of high mass and power requirements and limited human interaction. Recent advances in computational power however have allowed lightweight and highly flexible structures, similar to those found in biological creations, to be used in robot design. This has led to the development of bio-mimetics were the trend is to try to emulate the 'soft' compliant structure of muscle, bone, tendons and skin and combine this with the power, robustness, accuracy, and endurance of mechanical drives. This work used pneumatic Muscle Actuators (pMAs) as a soft actuators that can macroscopically replicate much of the action of natural muscle. The actuators were tested in antagonistic pairs and used to power a robot primate (dimensionally comparable with a female gorilla) with a mass of less than 25kg constructed using light flexible materials.
The University of Salford has a long history in the development of humanoid robotic hands. This particular hand was constructed for and installed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. The vast majority of dextrous robot hands are used in laboratory environments and so long term reliability is rarely a major design consideration. However, reliability is critically important for a museum exhibit as it is not acceptable to have a display out of order for long periods of time. The hand designed in this work therefore had to be very reliable. The hand has a total of 15 degrees of freedom and was mounted to a 2 degree of freedom arm. An interface was produced allowing visitors to the museum to interact with the robot. This allowed them to use the robot to manipulate a ball and play simple tunes on a piano keyboard.
Researchers in this area are concerned with the building of an Intelligent Collaborative Behaviour using Multi-Agent Systems/robots using novel swarm intelligence techniques. We have introduced the irrationality theory for the first time to swarm optimisation techniques and to swarm robotics. This concept was applied in wide range of applications such as path planning, obstacle avoidance and emergent behaviours, using state of the art Khepera robots (K-Team) for testing our algorithms as well as the widely used simulation software Webots (Cyberbotics) for simulating and testing our designed robot models. This work has been supported by the Eu-Cognition Network 2008.