Robopsychology – Perceptual Control Theory and Braitenberg’s Vehicles

Written by Angus Jenkinson · 2 min read >

April 13


04:49 am - 04:49 am

Event Category:

CybSights Insights Series

Experimental robot-psychology — applying the Test for the Controlled Variable to a class of robot known as Braitenberg’s Vehicles

The Insights Series is an eclectic and learned collection of monthly events on the 4th Tuesday of each month hosted by Cybernetics Society. There are lectures, seminars, conversations, debates, participation, all advancing our knowledge of cybernetics and related disciplines and their applications to real world needs. Speakers present their own views, without formal endorsement.

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The CybSights Insights series is normally curated and hosted by the Secretary, Angus Jenkinson, FCybS. Attendance is free. Non-members are invited to make an optional donation or to Join.

In this session,Steve Battle FCybS, a CybSoc Council member, gives his take on…

Robopsychology – Perceptual Control Theory and Braitenberg’s Vehicles

This talk is about experimental robot-psychology, applying the Test for the Controlled Variable to a class of robot known as Braitenberg’s Vehicles. Valentino Braitenberg was a cybernetician, a neuroanatomist, and a musician. His book, ‘Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology’ inspired many to explore its strange intersection of cybernetics and artistry. The simplest among these robots can be understood as operating by Stimulus-Response; their outputs simply a function of the inputs. But put them in an environment and we see the emergence of behaviour—the control of perception. Can we speak about these curious creatures as having a purpose, and if so what is it?

Perceptual Control Theory is a theory of brain architecture that emerges from the key insight that the brain is fundamentally a control system. What it strives to control are its inputs, the perception of its environment. PCT has been practically applied in experimental psychology where the Test for the Controlled Variable (TCV) has been successfully used to identify the control strategies used by Basketball fielders to catch fly balls, for example.

Dr Steve Battle FCybS

Steve Battle gained his PhD in constraint satisfaction algorithms, from the Transputer Centre at the University of the West of England, in 1996. He joined Hewlett Packard Labs, UK in 2000 where he worked on tools and standards for semantic technology — metadata and ontologies. Working as an industry consultant from 2010, Steve explored the application of semantic technology in the medical and aerospace industries. Now back at UWE as a senior lecturer, he is exploring the intersection of AI and robotics, working with the world renowned Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

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