Self-imitation and environmental scaffolding for robot teaching

Joe Saunders, Chrystopher L. Nehaniv, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Aris Alissandrakis

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    34 Citations (Scopus)
    57 Downloads (Pure)


    Imitative learning and learning by observation are social mechanisms that allow a robot to acquire knowledge from a human or another robot. However to be able to obtain skills in this way the robot faces many complex issues, one of which is that of finding solutions to the correspondence problem. Evolutionary predecessors to observational imitation may have been self-imitation where an agent avoids the complexities of the correspondence problem by learning and replicating actions it has experienced through the manipulation of its body. We investigate how a robotic control and teaching system using self-imitation can be constructed with reference to psychological models of motor control and ideas from social scaffolding seen in animals. Within these scaffolded environments sets of competencies can be built by constructing hierarchical state/action memory maps of the robot's interaction within that environment. The scaffolding process provides a mechanism to enable learning to be scaled up. The resulting system allows a human trainer to teach a robot new skills and modify skills that the robot may possess. Additionally the system allows the robot to notify the trainer when it is being taught skills it already has in its repertoire and to direct and focus its attention and sensor resources to relevant parts of the skill being executed. We argue that these mechanisms may be a first step towards the transformation from self-imitation to observational imitation. The system is validated on a physical pioneer robot that is taught using self-imitation to track, follow and point to a patterned object.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-124
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


    • Imitation
    • Memory-based learning
    • Scaffolding
    • Social robotics
    • Teaching


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