Mental imaginery for a mobile robot that learns obstacle avoidance

Wilmer Gaona, Esaú Escobar, Jorge Hermosillo, Bruno Lara (2015), Anticipation by multi-modal association through an artificial mental imagery process, Connection Science, 27:1, 68-88, DOI: 10.1080/09540091.2014.95628

Mental imagery has become a central issue in research laboratories seeking to emulate basic cognitive abilities in artificial agents. In this work, we propose a computational model to produce an anticipatory behaviour by means of a multi-modal off-line hebbian association. Unlike the current state of the art, we propose to apply hebbian learning during an internal sensorimotor simulation, emulating a process of mental imagery. We associate visual and tactile stimuli re-enacted by a long-term predictive simulation chain motivated by covert actions. As a result, we obtain a neural network which provides a robot with a mechanism to produce a visually conditioned obstacle avoidance behaviour. We developed our system in a physical Pioneer 3-DX robot and realised two experiments. In the first experiment we test our model on one individual navigating in two different mazes. In the second experiment we assess the robustness of the model by testing in a single environment five individuals trained under different conditions. We believe that our work offers an underpinning mechanism in cognitive robotics for the study of motor control strategies based on internal simulations. These strategies can be seen analogous to the mental imagery process known in humans, opening thus interesting pathways to the construction of upper-level grounded cognitive abilities.

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