The objective of the joint exchange project is to investigate aspects of human cognitive development with the double goal of developing robots able to interact with humans in a friendly way and of designing and testing protocols and devices for sensory and motor rehabilitation of disabled children. The methodology we intend to follow will combine science driven investigation of human cognitive development and engineering based implementation of devices and protocols. The intended focus is on social interaction and how the knowledge of this aspect of development could lead to robots able to communicate with humans in a natural and “biological way” (friendly robots), and/or give rise to training and rehabilitation techniques for children with sensory, motor and cognitive disabilities.
Social interaction is a bidirectional process based on a shared representation of actions and on mutual understanding and its study will help discovering how infants develop the understanding of actions, intentions and emotions to progressively improve their social behaviors. In addition, implementing models derived from humans studies on robots provides an additional constructive approach to investigate cognitive development and could benefit both robotics (better robots) and neuroscience, providing a test-bed for the proposed theories.
To be successful this multidisciplinary program calls for a wide range of expertise both in terms of scientific communities (developmental psychology, robotics, sensory and motor rehabilitation), and in relation to engineering implementation (robots as well rehabilitation devices) and social exploitation (sensory and motor rehabilitation). The exchange program proposed has the goal of joining the forces and expertise of the participating partners and of helping the formation and establishment of an international community of young researchers that shall effectively bridge the involved groups and their expertise in order to be effective in the long term.