Development of body representations in humans and robots


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Event: Development of body representations in humans and robots

Organizers: Matej Hoffmann, Alessandro Roncone, Lorenzo Jamone, and Beata Grzyb


Half-day workshop @ICDL-EPIROB 2014 Conference. I have implemented a website based on codrops template designs. It is fully responsive, extensible and carefully crafted. The main idea behind it was to convey a sense of order and rational distribution of the content, while at the same time providing a consistent experience among the various design elements.

Goal of the Workshop

The goal of the workshop has been to explore the possibility of robots developing models inspired by the mechanisms of human body representations. In this way, they can on one hand become new modeling tools for empirical sciences – expanding the domain of computational modeling by anchoring it to the physical environment and a physical body. Consequently, complete sensorimotor loops can be instantiated and not only algorithms but whole behaviors validated. On the other hand, robot controllers endowed with multimodal whole-body awareness and plasticity typical of humans should give rise to – in robotics unprecedented – autonomy, robustness, and resilience.


In order to achieve a variety of goals, humans and animals seamlessly command their highly complex bodies in space and concurrently integrate multimodal sensory information. To support these capabilities, it seems that knowledge or representation of the body and the surrounding space is necessary. In this regard, a number of concepts like body schema and body image were proposed. However, a growing number of studies from psychology and the neurosciences suggests that body schema or image are in fact mere umbrella terms, encompassing a multitude of different body representations that may be partially overlapping, partially dissociable, and partially organized in a hierarchy. Yet, empirical knowledge regarding the workings of these representations of our bodies in the brain is fragmented and sometimes contradictory and a coherent understanding of the key mechanisms is missing. Furthermore, computational models are scarce and address at the most isolated subsystems. Humanoid robots possess morphologies – physical characteristics as well as sensory and motor apparatus – that are in some respects akin to human bodies. However, their body representations, so-called plant models, have largely opposite properties to those that we suspect in humans – robot models are typically centralized, fixed, explicit, and amodal.


This workshop will capitalize on the ICDL-Epirob focus that lies at the intersection of scientific and engineering disciplines that are concerned with development, but provide a more specific theme, namely body representations and their development. The workshop will be divided into two main sessions. In the first, the invited speakers (already confirmed) will provide their perspectives on the topic and set the stage for a discussion. The speakers were carefully chosen, such that they cover all the disciplines that are at the core of the topic: developmental psychology (Jeffrey Lockman, Kevin O’Regan), computational neuroscience (Stuart Wilson), and cognitive developmental robotics (Minoru Asada). All of the speakers are specifically concerned with body representations in their current research. A second block will consist of short presentations / flash talks and a poster session. This will be open to the community at large – we will advertise the workshop in appropriate channels and solicit 1-page abstracts, which can report on recent or ongoing work, or even future work and ideas. These will be reviewed by the organizers (we will organize the review process, such that each submission is reviewed by at least one expert from the empirical sciences and one from a synthetic discipline). The abstracts will be made accessible on the workshop website. Based on the number and quality of submissions, we will consider organizing a follow-up special issue of a journal such as IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development or Adaptive Behavior.

Target Audience

The target audience overlaps with that of ICDL-Epirob itself. We want to primarily attract researchers from developmental psychology, computational and cognitive neuroscience, machine learning, and cognitive and developmental robotics – united by the theme of body representations and their development.


Personal website of Alessandro Roncone, aka alecive, Ph.D. in Robotics Engineering, computer scientist, interaction designer, father and runner in his spare time. He is currently working as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Social Robotics Lab, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

Alessandro has more than seven years' research experience in robotics. He worked full time with the iCub, one of the most advanced humanoid robots out there, on machine perception and artificial intelligence. His mastery of C++ and the YARP/ROS software architectures have been employed for research in human-robot interaction, kinematics, tactile perception and control. Head over the research section for more information on his work.