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Cognitive robotics – Part one

  • ajitjaokar 
Cognitive robotics – Part one

In this three-part series, we will explore cognitive robotics – a fascinating subject that promises to play a major role in the evolution of AI.

Cognitive robotics lies at the intersection of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and cognitive science, aiming to create intelligent systems that mimic human cognitive processes. This field is distinct yet closely related to intelligent robotics, emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach and bio-inspired methods. 

What is Cognitive Robotics?

Cognitive robotics (CR) refers to designing robots with human-like intelligence, encompassing perception, motor control, and high-level cognition. The goal is to build physically embodied intelligent systems inspired by cognitive sciences and natural intelligent systems. This interdisciplinary effort draws from AI, cognitive science, neuroscience, biology, philosophy, psychology, and cybernetics.

Different scholars have provided varying emphasis of CR over the years:

  1. The effort to build physically embodied intelligent systems based on cognitive sciences and natural intelligent systems.
  2. Designing robots with human-like intelligence in perception, motor control, and cognition, emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary contributions.
  3. Using bio-inspired methods for designing sensorimotor, cognitive, and social capabilities in autonomous robots.

These themes highlight CR’s focus on interdisciplinary approaches and human-like, bio-inspired functions, ranging from sensorimotor skills to higher-order cognitive functions and social skills.

Approaches to Cognitive Robotics

Several subfields within cognitive robotics contribute to its diverse nature:


Neurorobotics explores the interaction between neural systems and robotic embodiments, using robots to study brain-body-environment interactions. This field aims to create autonomous systems that leverage biological intelligence, providing insights into neural circuitry and cognitive processes. For example, neurorobots can model neural networks and study how physical and sensory feedback loops affect behavior and learning. By mimicking the human nervous system, neurorobots help understand complex brain functions and contribute to developing advanced AI systems.

Developmental Robotics

Developmental robotics draws inspiration from child development, aiming to create robots that acquire skills through interactions with their environment, much like human infants. This approach integrates developmental psychology, neuroscience, and robotics, focusing on the autonomous acquisition of complex sensorimotor and cognitive abilities. Developmental robots learn and adapt in real-time, developing new skills and knowledge through exploration and social interaction. This methodology not only advances robot autonomy but also offers insights into human cognitive development.

Evolutionary Robotics

Evolutionary robotics uses principles of natural selection and genetic algorithms to evolve robot behaviors and physical forms. This approach aims to create adaptive and robust robots capable of evolving to meet new challenges and environments. Robots in this field are treated as autonomous organisms that undergo simulated evolution, developing new capabilities over generations. By evolving neural network controllers and physical structures, evolutionary robotics creates innovative and efficient solutions to complex tasks, mirroring nature’s adaptive processes.

Swarm Robotics

Swarm robotics takes inspiration from social insects, designing systems of simple robots that can cooperate to perform complex tasks. This approach emphasizes decentralized control, local interactions, and collective behaviors, leading to robust and scalable robotic systems. Swarm robots communicate through simple signals, coordinating actions to achieve collective goals without central control. Applications include search and rescue missions, environmental monitoring, and agricultural automation, where the swarm approach’s flexibility and resilience provide significant advantages.

Soft Robotics

Soft robotics focuses on creating robots with flexible, compliant bodies that can safely interact with humans and adapt to their environment. This approach often overlaps with developmental robotics, as it aims to design robots that learn and develop over time, using principles of biological growth and adaptation. Soft robots use materials like silicone and other elastomers to achieve movements and interactions that are more natural and safe for human contact. They are particularly useful in delicate tasks such as medical surgery, rehabilitation, and personal assistance, where their gentle touch and adaptability reduce the risk of injury and increase effectiveness.


Cognitive robotics represents a vibrant, interdisciplinary field that seeks to bridge the gap between human cognition and robotic intelligence. By drawing on diverse disciplines and emphasizing bio-inspired designs, CR aims to create robots that can perceive, reason, and act in ways that closely mimic human and animal intelligence. As the field continues to evolve, it promises to unlock new possibilities for autonomous systems and their applications in various domains, from healthcare to industrial automation.

Understanding cognitive robotics highlights its potential to revolutionize how we design and interact with intelligent systems, ultimately leading to more adaptable, capable, and human-like robots. The diverse approaches within cognitive robotics, including neurorobotics, developmental robotics, evolutionary robotics, swarm robotics, and soft robotics, each contribute unique insights and capabilities, driving the field forward and opening new frontiers in both research and practical applications.


Cognitive Robotics Edited by Angelo Cangelosi and Minoru Asada

Image source: Dall-e