Report on the 8th International Workshop on Cognitive Robotics (CogRob-2012)

The 8th International Workshop on Cognitive Robotics was held at Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Sheraton Centre Toronto, on July 22–23, 2012. Cognitive robotics is concerned with integrating reasoning, perception and action with a uniform theoretical and implementation robotics framework. The goal of this workshop was to bring together researchers involved in all aspects of the theory and implementation of cognitive robots to discuss current work and future directions.

Wolfram Burgard (Institute for Informatik, Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany), Kurt Konolige (Industrial Perception, Inc., Palo Alto, USA), Maurice Pagnucco (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia), and Stavros Vassos (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece) served as co-chairs for this workshop. The papers of the workshop were published as AAAI Press Technical Report WS-12-06.

The use of both software robots (softbots) and robotic artifacts in everyday life is on the upswing and we are seeing increasingly more examples of their use in society with commercial products around the corner and some already on the market. As interaction with humans increases, so does the demand for sophisticated robotic capabilities associated with deliberation and high-level cognitive functions. Combining results from the traditional robotics discipline with those from AI and cognitive science has and will continue to be central to research in cognitive robotics. As improvements in technology lead to more sophisticated sensors, actuators, etc. together with a decrease in size, power consumption and cost, the need for higher-level cognitive functions on these more sophisticated robots is becoming more and more pressing.

Research in robotics has traditionally emphasized low-level sensing and control tasks including sensory processing, path planning, and manipulator design and control. In contrast, research in cognitive robotics is concerned with endowing robots and software agents with higher level cognitive functions that enable them to reason, act and perceive in changing, incompletely known, and unpredictable environments. Such robots must, for example, be able to reason about goals, actions, when to perceive and what to look for, the cognitive states of other agents, time, collaborative task execution, and so on. In short, cognitive robotics is concerned with integrating reasoning, perception and action within a uniform theoretical and implementation framework.

This two-day workshop brought together researchers from a variety of subfields of AI in addition to researchers in the field of cognitive science. The 15 papers that were presented in the workshop focused on a broad range of topics from theoretical approaches and methodologies for various aspects of cognitive robotics to practical and challenging applications of cognitive robots in the real world.

Some of the topics discussed by the presenters include practical languages for reasoning about action and change, agent programming languages for high-level behavior, plan recognition, modelling visuospatial abilities, as well as the framework of conceptual spaces, the Soar cognitive architecture, and emotional intelligence. As far as practical applications of cognitive robotics is concerned, the discussions included an application in personalized guided tour using cognitive robots (“Personalized Guided Tour by Multiple Robots through Semantic Profile Definition and Dynamic Redistribution of Participants” by Anna Hristoskova, Carlos Aguero, Manuela Veloso and Filip De Turck), a framework for modelling the skills of manufacturing robots (“A Taxonomic Framework for Task Modeling and Knowledge Transfer in Manufacturing Robotics” by Jacob Huckaby and Henrik I. Christensen), as well as a prototype robotic bartender (“What Would You Like to Drink? Recognising and Planning with Social States in a Robot Bartender Domain” by Ron Petrick and Mary Ellen Foster).

In addition to the contributed presentations, the workshop included two invited talks from renowned members of the AI community that took place at the beginning of each day of the workshop. Michael Thielscher (University of New South Wales, Australia) talked about the research topic of General Game Playing in the context of cognitive robotics, and Peter Stone (University of Texas, USA) focused on the RoboCup competition discussing its evolution in the recent years and the major challenges that have been identified.

The discussions that were initiated by the invited talks and the paper presentations also continued in a panel session that took place near the end of the second day of the workshop. The panel included four panelists, Giuseppe De Giacomo (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy), Unmesh Kurup (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), Gerhard Lakemeyer (Aachen University of Technology, Germany), and Peter Stone (University of Texas, USA), and the topic of the discussion was “Practical challenges for Cognitive Robotics”.

Three major themes emerged from a lively discussion among the panelists and the participants of the workshop identifying the following as major challenges: i) the ability to form ad-hoc teams of cognitive robots for collaboratively addressing a given situation, ii) the use of software worlds, such as video-games, not only as a testbed for experimenting and evaluating approaches for cognitive robotics, but also as a self-standing application domain that becomes ubiquitous is the modern age of information, and iii) an effective account of perception that incorporates both symbolic and non-symbolic reasoning also taking into account a fusion of the available vast amount of information in existing knowledge bases.


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