Sony Aibo is back!

I’m so glad Sony finally decided to come back to the AI and robotics frontline. As many of my colleagues working in robotics, I was so disappointed 11 years ago when Sony decided to discontinue Aibo and Qrio… Aibo played a very significant role in research, being a really good performing robot in challenges such as the Robocup, it was a shame to lose all that research momentum that we had acquired over the years with such a nice platform.

Aibo resurrection is great news, the new model, Aibo ERS-1000, resembles a lot the last ERS-7 model. It is now available to pre-order in Japan, going on sale around mid-January 2018. Check the official Aibo website for more details. The rest of the world will have to wait a little longer for the new Sony Aibo.

It’s for us to see now whether Sony has been doing a great effort during these years to improve the robot or it is just coming back to a redecorated version of the ERS-7 (according to the company they’ve been working on AI internally over these years, although no commercial products were available). My humble opinion: you need to be in the market, even when AI is not the trending topic, in order to really advance the field and play a significant role in the development of new AI and robotics products. Over these years, in many research areas and business prototype applications, Aldebaran Nao kind of took the place left by the discontinuation of Aibo. It’ll be interesting to see now if Aibo is able to reclaim its lost position. My opinion again, that depends on how well the company does with SDK and APIs.

Of course, apart from research and business applications, we have the wide potential market for robotic pets. But again, I think the success in this market depends on the ability of Sony to foster a strong research and developer community around Aibo. Keeping a technology-closed or fully proprietary platform will prevent Aibo to reach its full potential. On the other hand, if Sony decides to go for an open community collaboration, my guess is Aibo will have a successful future.

There is no doubt that current enthusiasm about AI and Deep Learning is influencing all companies worldwide and all industries. Sony decided to take a step back from this arena more than a decade ago, let’s see now if they can keep a strong position in such a competitive domain these days. One key feature of new Aibo is clearly artificial vision using deep learning, and here we can make some comparisons with Google TensorFlow. Sony has developed their own neural network libraries (see https://nnabla.org/), which are written in C++ and designed to be embedded in devices such as Aibo. Apart from that, the whole library scheme seems to be much like TensorFlow. There is a web-based and app-based neural network console you can use to play with Sony’s neural network lib (https://dl.sony.com/). However, it looks like it is only available in Japan for the time being… So, we’ll stay tuned for news about this.

The new Aibo is being evaluated at Psicobōtica Labs as a possible platform for social interaction training.

Call for papers: Cognition and computation

Special Issue on Cognition and Computation
Italian Journal of Cognitive Sciences

Deadline for submissions: July 31th, 2017
Notification of acceptance: October 15th, 2017

One of the founding ideas of cognitive science is that cognition is essentially computation. From the very start, many have denied this view, but in recent times computationalism has increasingly come under attack from several different fronts.

From a quick glance at the current cognitive science scenario, one comes away with the impression that several of the criticisms raised against the computational view of mind, rather than leading to the abandonment of computationalism altogether, have instead served to advancing it in several respects. The aim of this call is to collect reflections regarding this scenario.

Submissions should adhere to the following guidelines:

Articles should be submitted in blind review format. Please omit any self–identifying information within the abstract and body of the paper. Max length: 35.000 characters (including spaces, references and an abstract of no more than 150 words). Please use the APA citation style for references.

Language: English

Guest Editor: Alessio Plebe

Submissions should be sent via e-mail to: aplebe[at]unime.it

Important dates:

Deadline for submissions: July 31th, 2017
Notification of acceptance: October 15th, 2017

 Read the call.

A better way to test for consciousness?

ConsScale Pyramid

No doubt we need better ways to test for consciousness, as much as we need better definitions. From the point of view of science, Consciousness is a controversial and quite elusive phenomenon and trying to build good tests is actually a crucial part of the quest to understand it. Assessment and definition are always inseparable (otherwise, we wouldn’t know what we are testing).

Effectively testing for consciousness in humans is something we take for granted, specially when we put our trust in anesthesiologists right before going into surgery, or when ER physicians perform a Glasgow coma test to assess the level of consciousness of a patient. Assessing the level of consciousness in human subjects is usually a non problematic or challenging task (except from locked-in syndrome patients and the like). However, when we consider the vast number of other sorts of organisms, such as other animals, plants and machines things get much more complicated. The problems is essentially the same for all creatures, and scientifically speaking it involves the very same problem. However, there is a huge difference when we speak about humans: for humans we do assume consciousness as a legitimate feature of the living organism.

So, what do we do if we want to come up with a universal test for consciousness? One that might be applicable to virtually any creature possible, including biological organisms, artificial machines or cyborgs? What features or what measurements do we need to do? In other words, what is consciousness made of, so we can measure it?

ConsScale Summary

As neatly described by Musser in his aeon essay (Consciousness Creep. Our machines could become self-aware without our knowing it) we are making efforts, and hopefully some progress, into building new ways to test for consciousness. ConsScale is an example of this quest for both understanding and measuring consciousness.

Musser presents in his essay several of the tests that have been recently proposed, explaining the vision and position of the authors, including my own. It’s interesting to see how different approaches for testing imply different assumptions about what consciousness is. Tononi’s approach is based on the Information Integration theory, ConsScale is based on cognitive development, Haikonen stresses the importance of inner talk, Schwitzgebel raises the question of consciousness in groups (super-organisms). Perhaps we need to look for a new approach able to deal with all these aspects within the same framework.

New Generation of Atlas Humanoid Robot

Looks like Boston Dynamics is moving fast from quadripedal locomotion to the outstanding Atlas biped robot. In the Atlas the upper limbs are free and they are effectively used to carry and handle loads, and even opening doors! This new Atlas prototype seems to be much more agile and more human-like size. Although the focus for Atlas is in balance and dynamics, I guess next step is endowing this humanoid robot with proper hands (I don’t really see this Atlas version dealing with a regular door handle. Anyhow, I can imagine how it might be able to open the door anyway…).

I’m always taking about robots and emotions…, but this time I just think it’s a good thing that the Atlas robot didn’t show any anger when dealing with the annoying guy with the hockey stick (luckily for the human).

Conscious-Robots Reloaded!

strong_robot

After 9 years of glory… We’re just back, and refurnished 🙂

Conscious-Robots.com was born back in 2006 and soon became to be known as the “official unofficial site of machine consciousness research community”. Of course, this might be opinable, but basically being the only guy in town, that nomination was not an improbable achievement. Anyhow, I feel proud of it and very grateful to all the collaborators that helped me over the years. To you: THANK YOU!! Here’s a screen capture to be framed and hanged on your favorite wall:

Old Conscious-Robots.com site
Old Conscious-Robots.com site

I just checked: it’s been almost one million page views, more than 200.000 unique users, some nasty hacker attacks, and many of my hours. I’d say not bad, at least for a site which has been so specific and focused on Machine Consciousness and Robotics (specially Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio – RDS).

Old CR logoEven though some of the contents of the old site might be outdated, I’ll be migrating most of them to the new blog, as I think they are still of interest for the community (this may take me some time, but don’t worry, the treasures will be saved).

There are also thousands of messages in the forums, which sadly I think I cannot effectively recover (the Spanish version is gone due to problems with the old content management system and most of RDS stuff is clearly outdated).

So, good bye old CR, welcome Conscious-Robots reloaded!!

Most people think robots will become conscious

Can robots become conscious?

Conscious-Robots.com poll results

Back in 2006 I started an online poll published in the frontpage of Conscious-Robots.com (that old authentic machine consciousness site, that I just turned into a 2016 modern posh blog ;-). Over these years more than 1.100 followers have participated in the poll, and guess what? Around 85% of the participants believe machine consciousness will be a reality. Almost 72% of the people believe robots will become as conscious as humans. Only 4.3% of the participants think machine consciousness is not possible:

Conscious Robots Poll
Conscious Robots Poll (2006-2016)

Ok, ok, these guys answering the question are not exactly a simple random sample. Let’s say that followers of Conscious-Robots.com are expected to have a strong bias towards believing that machine consciousness is something doable. Nevertheless, quite interesting results…

BotPrize 2014 Competition

Call for Competitors – BotPrize 2014 Competition

A Turing test for Non-Player Characters in Video Games

http://human-machine.unizar.es/

cartel_BotPrize2014

The 2014 BotPrize competition challenges programmers / researchers / hobbyists to create a bot for UT2004 (a first-person shooter) that can fool opponents into thinking it is another human player. In the competition gaming environment, both computer-controlled bots and human players (judges) meet in multiple rounds of combat, and the judges try to guess which opponents are human. To win the prize, a bot has to be indistinguishable from a human player. In other words, it has to pass this adapted version of the Turing Test.

The results will be announced at a Special Session in the IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games (IEEE CIG 2014), in Dortmund, Germany, taking place between 26-29 August, 2014.

Doctoral Student’s Guide to Postdocs

These days, finding employment after graduation is a challenge regardless of your degree level. However, tough job markets are even more disheartening for doctoral graduates who have dedicated a significant amount of their lives and money to earning their degrees. Fortunately, there are plenty of post-doctoral research opportunities available to new Ph.D. holders; these gigs can serve as an ideal intermediary between academic life and the beginnings of a successful career. Check the following link for a guide to postdocs:

First International Workshop on Artificial Consciousness

First International Workshop on

Artificial Consciousness

Taormina, Italy, September 2-6, 2013 at ECAL 2013

Artificial Consciousness

About this Workshop

The workshop is devoted to the issue of artificial consciousness. In biological organisms, consciousness is considered to be the starting point for personal human understanding of the world and consequent intelligent behaviour. Therefore, if one is interested in cognitive architectures which would be biologically inspired, then modeling of consciousness becomes an important computational research topic for the construction of architectures that are strive to have equivalence with the human mind. Furthermore, both life and consciousness can be seen as emerging processes with unique properties and a particular elusive character from the point of view of scientific study.

This workshop might be an excellent opportunity to review and advance the research programs focused on finding the common grounds and relationships between life and consciousness. The workshop will provide an overview of the state of the art in the field of machine consciousness. Moreover, it is intended to include contributions from designers of artificially conscious machines. Such contributions address the problem of how a given cognitive architecture should be shaped in order to include the feeling of being aware of something. It will be argued that the knowledge about the qualitative side of consciousness “supervenes” upon the functional knowledge. In other words, if our knowledge is good enough to approach the design of machines with conscious states it is also able to explain the causes of phenomenology in a general sense.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

– computational architectures on machine consciousness

– ethics of artificial consciousness

– methods of defining and recognising the presence of artificial qualia

– setting up a Turing Test for artificial qualia

The First International Workshop on Artificial Consciousness is part of the 12th European Conference on Artificial Life. Designing, Programming, Evolving, Simulation and Synthesis of Natural and Artificial Living Systems (September,2-6 2013, Taormina, Italy).

Call for papers

We invite the submission of papers on the topics of workshop. Submit your research by June 23, 2013 to be considered for the workshop program. Submission is made through the Easychair website. The submitted papers should be no more than 3 pages long (no more than 1000 words). The papers must be prepared for blind referee, with all self-reference and personal data suppressed.

The EasyChair login page for ECAL 2013 is at: https://www.easychair.org/account/signin.cgi?conf=ecal2013

In order to access the submission page, the creation of an EasyChair account will be required.

Call for posters

Poster sessions consists of posters displayed for informal browsing with opportunities for individual discussion with authors.

Important dates

May 15, 2013 Abstract submission deadline
May 31, 2013 Notification of paper acceptance
May 15, 2013 Poster submission deadline
May 31, 2013 Notification of poster acceptance

Program co-chairs

Igor Aleksander
Imperial College, London, UK

Raul Arrabales Moreno
U-tad, University Centre of Technology and Digital Art, Madrid, Spain

Pietro Perconti
University of Messina, Italy

Alessio Plebe
University of Messina, Italy

Workshop Venue

The First International Workshop on Artificial Consciousness will be co-located with ECAL 2013, 12th European Conference on Artificial Life, September 2-6 2013, Taormina, Italy.

The workshop will take place at “Villa Diodoro” Hotel Taormina, Italy.

Hotel Villa Diodoro
Via Bagnoli Croci 75
98039 Taormina, Messina, Italy
T: +39 0942 2 33 12
F: +39 0942 2 33 91
E: diodoro at gaishotels.com
W: http://www.hotelvilladiodoro.com/
W: http://www.hotelvilladiodoro.com/en/how-to-reach-us.html

 

Special Issue

Revised versions of selected papers will be taken into consideration for publication on a special issue of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness.

Registration

The registration can be done via the ECAL 2013 web site. Early registration deadline is June 15, 2013. Late registration: June 16 – September 6, 2013

Schedule

To be announced.

More Information

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Workshop web site.

ECAL 2013 web site.