Experiments Towards Robotic Learning by Imitation

John Demiris

Learning by imitation is a form of learning, which despite the fact it has been widely studied by ethologists, has not been fully understood yet. In fact, there is a considerable disagreement even on the terminology used despite attempts to clarify it (Davis,1973; Galef, 1988;). We believe that by building robots which instantiate the mechanisms hypothesised to underlie these types of behaviour, those mechanisms will be illuminated with explanatory adequacy. Our investigation into imitative learning begins with the construction of an appropriate experimental testbed and the design of a suitable architecture which would enable one robot (the learner) to imitate another one (the teacher) which is performing a task, and learn to perform the task while imitating the teacher. Initially, the idea was to have one robot to perform a sequence of moves ("dance"), while the other robot would learn dancing by imitating the first one. Such an experiment however, does not satisfy our need to be able to evaluate whether the robot has actually learned anything. Instead, we choose to have as a testbed a maze, where the robot learner would imitate the actions that the robot teacher is performing during its maze negotiation strategy. After the learning phase, we could ask the second robot to navigate itself through a new (different) maze, which would provide us with a more evident demonstration that learning has taken place.

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