Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Mixed Reality Robot Arena

The Mixed-Reality Robot Arena (MiXR-RA) is a mixed real/virtual environment for robots (e-puck robots) conceived and created as an experimental setup to investigate the origins of artificial behavior generation. The MiXR-RA uses a biological plausible control system for an artificial autonomous agent that is able to self-regulate, it is fit for survival and has foraging capabilities. The terms self-regulation, survival and foraging are redefined in terms of the Mixed Reality Environment where the robot is immersed. The MiXR-RA was inspired by scientific experimental setups used to study animal’s behavior. For instance, rodents are optimal real-world foragers that can smoothly regulate complex sets of behaviors from exploration, to defense and security, to maintain a dynamic stability with their environment. In this interactive physical arena robots can navigate and perceive visual projections as part of their sensory perception, similarly to rodents.

The control system driving the robots is being developed at SPECS, UPF as part of a more complex cognitive architecture, the Distributed Adaptive Control (Verschure et al. 2003), providing a robust and biologically valid approach towards the construction of an artificial rodents brain. The MiXR-RA is able to track the robots but also it generates and conveys to the robots dynamic cues, i.e real and virtual stimulus. These can be any type of visual stimulus projected in the main surface and lateral walls, sound stimulus, and also virtual proximity sensor inputs together with the real proximity sensors with which the epuck robots are equipped.For this purpose, the table has a retro projected surface on top of which the epuck robots navigate, an infrared camera and also computer vision to track the robot’s position.  Also, two lateral projections augment the exploitable sensory modalities of the robot breaking the planarity of interactive multi-touch interfaces.

The behavior of the robots in the arena is used to modulate the generation of a musical composition created in real-time by SiMS (the Situated Interactive Music Server). SiMS composition system follows a biomimetic architecture that is multi-level and loosly distinguishes sensing from processing and actions. It relies on a variety of algorithmic composition techniques, sound synthesis models, and musical expression rules that have been validated by psychoacoustics and emotion research experiments at SPECS.

The user can manipulate the robot’s environment by introducing input stimulus that can affect the internal subsystems of the robot. The Robot marks the environment with tags according to their internal state. The user can change this by introducing cues in the robot arena through a touch screen. Robots can sense the introduced cues in the environment and try to reach them.  Robots may also observe human users with the cameras mounted on top of each of them. The computer vision algorithms of the robots will include face recognition and smile detection which will have an influence on the internal states of the robots.

The SPECS group is the laboratory for Synthetic Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems lead by Prof. Paul Verschure, a research pprofessor appointed by the Catalan Institute of Advanced Studies (ICREA), and Associate Professor of Computation and Artificial Intelligence at the Technology Department of Universitat Pompeu Fabra.- SPECS is a multidisciplinary group with expertise from psychology, engineering, biology, mathematics, physics, computer science and humanities. The group uses synthetic methods to study and synthesize the neuronal, psychological and behavioural principles underlying perception, emotion and cognition. The synthetic approach of SPECS combines real-world systems, such as robots, virtual reality systems and interactive installations with anatomically, physiologically and behaviorally constrained computational models. It is in this constructive approach that we retain a system’s view on mind, brain and behaviour while elucidating its underlying principles. This approach directly gives rise to novel brain based artefacts and these synthetic perceptive, emotive and cognitive systems in turn can provide novel technologies for real-world problems including the enhancement of the quality of life.

"MiXR-RA" (Mixed-Reality Robot Arena) is a project made by Martí Sánchez, Daniel Cabezas, Sylvain Le Groux, Ulysses Bernardet, Anna Mura and Paul Verschure.