Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

AI Seminar

Toyota AI Seminar: How To Make A Robot That Feels

J. Kevin O'Regan

Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception - CNRS, Université Paris Descartes, Paris.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
4:00pm - 5:30pm
3725 Beyster Bldg. (Stained Glass Conference Room)

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About the Event

Consciousness is often considered to have a "hard" part and a not-so-hard part. With the help of work in artificial intelligence and more recently in embodied robotics, there is hope that we shall be able solve the not-so-hard part and make artificial agents that understand their environment, communicate with their friends, and even have a notion of "self" and "others". But will such agents feel anything? Building the feel into the agent seems to be the "hard" part. I shall explain how action provides a solution. Taking the stance that feel is a way of acting in the world provides a way of accounting for what has been considered the mystery of "qualia", namely why there is something it's like to experience a feel, why they have phenomenal "presence", and why they are the way they are. This "sensorimotor" approach to feel, though a priori somewhat philosophical, actually opens interesting computational and empirical avenues of research. From a theoretical point of view, the approach stresses the importance of studying not neural activation (which is just a code), but the intrinsic, code-independent structure of sensorimotor laws. Empirically, the approach makes interesting claims about sensory substitution, color perception, and space understanding which I shall describe.


After studying theoretical physics at Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Kevin O'Regan moved to Paris in 1975 to work in experimental psychology at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. Following his Ph. D. on eye movements in reading he showed the existence of an optimal position for the eye to fixate in words. His interest in the problem of the perceived stability of the visual world led him to question established notions of the nature of visual perception, and to predict, with collaborators, the phenomenon of "change blindness". His current work involves exploring the empirical consequences of a new "sensorimotor" approach to vision and sensation in general. He is particularly interested in the problem of the nature of phenomenal consciousness, which he addresses experimentally and theoretically in relation to sensory substitution, sensory adaptation, pain, color, and space perception. He is interested in applying this work to robotics. Kevin O'Regan is currently director of the Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, CNRS, Université Paris Descartes.

Additional Information

Contact: Quang Duong

Email: qduong@umich.edu

Sponsor(s): Toyota

Open to: Public