Rockwood Memorial Lecture


Josh Bongard

Title: "Investigations at the Interface of Morphology, Evolution and Cognition”
Most computational attempts to understand cognition have focused on its proximate mechanisms: understanding the function of existing biological systems related to cognition and implementing them in artificial systems. In this talk I will discuss several robotics projects I have been involved in in which we try to shed light on the ultimate mechanisms of cognition: what selection pressures and task environments lead to the appearance of particular cognitive abilities, and what morphological and neural structures must evolve to support those abilities.


Title: "Resilient Machines (Through Continuous Self-Modeling)"
Animals sustain the ability to operate after injury by creating qualitatively different compensatory behaviors. Although such robustness would be desirable in engineered systems, most machines fail in the face of unexpected damage. We describe a robot that can recover from such change autonomously, through continuous self-modeling. A four-legged machine uses actuation-sensation relationships to indirectly infer its own structure, and it then uses this self-model to generate forward locomotion. When a leg part is removed, it adapts the self-models, leading to the generation of alternative gaits. This concept may help develop more robust machines and shed light on self-modeling in animals.

Biography: Josh Bongard received his Bachelors degree in Computer Science from McMaster University, Canada, his Masters degree from the University of Sussex, UK, and his PhD from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He served as a postdoctoral associate under Hod Lipson in the Computational Synthesis Laboratory at Cornell University from 2003 to 2006. He is the co-author of the popular science book entitled "How the Body Shapes the Way We Think: A New View of Intelligence," MIT Press, November 2006 (with Rolf Pfeifer). Currently, he is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Vermont. His research interests include embodied cognition and evolutionary computation, and he was named both a Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellow in 2006, as well as a member of the TR35: MIT Technology Review's top 35 innovators under the age of 35.

Josh Bongard is well known for a robot he developed


Host: Terry Sejnowski