A Deep Dive into Cognitive Robotics


A proposed half-day tutorial at the
21st International Conference on Advanced Robotics
ICAR 2023
Abu Dhabi

Abstract |  Content  |  Participation  |  Operation  |  Dissemination  | 


This tutorial will give participants a comprehensive introduction to the field of cognitive robotics, exposing them to its potential and its challenges, and providing them with a launchpad for further exploration of the field. We will do this by reviewing briefly the present status and the likely future of the field. We will sample key elements in cognitive science, robot manipulation, and knowledge representation and reasoning, explaining how these elements are orchestrated by means of a cognitive architecture. Specifically, we will walk through through the syllabus of a representative course on cognitive robotics. We will also explore the competencies beyond technical knowledge and skills that an experienced cognitive roboticist will possess.


There are three strands to the tutorial.

First, we will present an overview of the discipline: the essentials of cognition, the state-of-the-art in cognitive robotics, key challenges, and future prospects. This material will be based on two sources: the article on cognitive robotics in the Encyclopedia of Robotics,1 co-authored by the proposer, and the forthcoming TC Spotlight article in the September issue of the IEEE RAS Robotics and Automation Magazine (RAM),2 also co-authored by the proposer. The topics to be address include a definition of cognitive robotics, the role of cognition, core cognitive abilities, coordination of core cognitive abilities in a cognitive architecture, example applications, and directions for future research.

Second, we will sample the technical material that is included in a cognitive robotics curriculum. This material will be drawn from an course on cognitive robotics developed by the proposer for the IEEE RAS, with funding provided by the Program for Creation of Educational Material in Robotics and Automation (CEMRA). We will focus in particular on understanding cognition and artificial cognitive systems (sampling material in the proposer's book on the topic) and robot cognitive architectures. For the latter, based on the proposer's chapter in the recently published Cognitive Robotics,3 we will provide overviews of several architectures, including Soar, CLARION, and ISAC, and walk through the structure and operation of the CRAM cognitive architecture. We will highlight the existence of online resources, such as those in the IEEE RAS Technical Committee website, and the proposer's wiki article dedicated to cognitive robotics, which has more than 400,000 hits to date.

Third, based the material to be discussed at the forthcoming ROS 2023 workshop on Teaching & Training Students for Cognitive Robotics which is being co-organized by the proposer, we will review the competencies that one acquires when studying cognitive robotics: system thinking, computational thinking, mathematical thinking, decision making, technology impact awareness, and active learning. We will also reflect on different ways to teach cognitive robotics and on how we might create a cognitive robotics competence aware curriculum.


The tutorial will be advertized at the forthcoming IROS 2023 workshop on Teaching & Training Students for Cognitive Robotics, co-organized by the proposer, as well as on the website of IEEE RAS TC for Cognitive Robotics, of which the proposer is a Co-Chair Emeritus. An email will also be sent the TC mailing list. In an effort to capture the attention of potential attendees from Africa, and drive a more inclusive participation, we will also ask the universities in the African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) to advertize the tutorial in their countries in northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.


Previous experience in giving tutorials of this nature, such as at the EASE Fall Schools as well as when teaching cognitive robotics to Master's level students, has highlighted the challenge of striking the right balance between depth and breadth in a field that is inherently interdisciplinary. The strategy that has worked best for the proposer in the past is to actively seek the involvement of those who are participating, either by periodically posing formative questions, or by adaptively engaging in open discussion when certain topics resonate with the participants. The modus operandi of the tutorial is not so much to tick a prescribed list of agenda boxes, but to actively explore and understand the material. This approach tends to foster interaction between participants of different levels of experience.


The dedicated tutorial website www.cognitiverobotics.eu will be the primary, persistent means of disseminating the material that will be covered, as well as the insights that arise from discussion among the participants. Links to this material will be added to the IEEE RAS Technical Committee's resources page on its website, and to the the proposer's wiki article on cognitive robotics. We also plan on writing an article for the IEEE RAS Robotics and Automation Magazine that provides a précis of the key messages in the tutorial. Since some of the material in the proposed tutorial derives from articles written by the Chairs of the IEEE RAS TC for Cognitive Robotics and organizers of IROS 2023 workshop, this will be a collaborative endeavour, with the proposer taking the lead in coordinating it.

1G. Sandini, A. Sciutti, and D. Vernon, "Cognitive Robotics", in Encyclopedia of Robotics, M. Ang, O. Khatib, and B. Siciliano (Eds.), Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2021.

2 A. Sciutti, M. Beetz, T. Inamura, A. Korsah, J. Oh, G. Sandini, S. Shimoda, D. Vernon, "The Present and the Future of Cognitive Robotics", IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, TC Spotlight, in press.

3D. Vernon, ``Cognitive Architectures'', in Cognitive Robotics, A. Cangelosi and M. Asada (Eds.), MIT Press, Chapter 10, 2022.