Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

How I fell in love with Robotics?

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International Women’s Day.

I received my PhD in Artificial Intelligence, in particular on cognitive models to simulate the way people think about space and time, to effectively move daily around their environment, without the use of any measurement tools. I applied those theoretical models to the movement of simulated robots through the streets of my hometown, Castellon, Spain. It was quite a theoretical thesis, and I really enjoyed working on it.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAfter I finished my PhD thesis, I went to a IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) conference in Japan to present my research. The Robocup competition was going on at the same venue as the conference. For the first time, Sony was there presenting their cat and dog robot pets in a fiberglass showcase. The movements of those little robots were so well done, that I stood there looking at them in amazement for a very long time. I thought, “I want to be working with these robots”, “I want to include the technology that I just developed for my thesis to these robots”, “the best way for the robots to move through their environment is by using cognitive models, and I am going to make this happen”!

That was a very firm decision. After that, I created a research group at the University, with several PhD and undergraduate students, and started to work with that problem for many years, with highly productive results (if productivity can be measured in terms of papers written), that still were not giving us what I wanted: the robots moving around by using cognitive models. The problem was that the sensors of the robots were not providing the relevant information, that was needed for our theoretical cognitive models, they were just giving us numbers.

It wasn’t until we had a concrete challenge, that we put all the pieces together. The challenge was defined by the Robocup competition for the Aibos robots. The main sensor of the Aibos was the camera, and the treatment of images was done through colour. Although they also had a couple of infrared sensors, they were only useful for avoiding obstacles.

That problem consisted of a soccer field with regular landmarks (two goals and four corners) plus several undetermined, extra landmarks, of different sizes and colours on them. One Aibo robot was placed somewhere in the soccer field and had one minute to turn around and memorize all the landmarks around the field. After that minute, the robot was kidnapped from the field, all the extra-landmarks removed, and the robot placed again somewhere on the field. By using only the regular landmarks, the challenge was to make the robot go to 5 different locations on the field, defined by its (X,Y) coordinates, that were not know up to that moment.

I worked with several students in this challenge for several months. We never went to the real competition, (we didn’t have the funds) but I finally put all the pieces together in a weekend, and wrote a research article on how to use regular sensors to obtain relevant information, to be able to use cognitive models, to make the robot move around. I was so excited. I knew I had something big.

11.19.12We published that paper, but didn’t publish any others related with that solution, to protect our IP. We received a lot of funding to prove the concept in scrubber machines, and some other research robots. Eventually, we applied for a patent and founded the company, Cognitive Robots. Once the company was created, we continued development with several improvements from the original prototype, and separated the “brain” from the “body”, to create our product, the “Cognitive Brain for Service Robotics ®” (C-Brain), which is basically a set of sensors, and a computer, that is transforming data from the sensors into relevant information and running cognitive models to relate information, thereby providing knowledge and intelligence to every vehicle were the Cognitive Brain is installed.

 

 

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  1. Wonderful story Teresa, thanks for sharing!

    Stanford Crane

    10 Mar 13 at 12:13 am

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