Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ICIS Workshop Summary and Thoughts

On July 02 we held the workshop "Computational Models of Infant Development" as a pre-conference event of ICIS 2014 in Berlin. The workshop was a follow-up on the 2012 workshop "Developmental Robotics" at the same venue. Our general goal, of course, was to bring experimental research in psychology and modelling research in machine learning and developmental robotics closer together. This time we focused on more computational aspects rather than immediate robotics effort and tried to compare things like connectionist and dynamical systems models.
The workshop was attended by 40 people, and sponsored by FIAS and our research project. We also a poster session with 10 posters, which I am not going to introduce, but you can check out the titles here. We had some remarkable keynote speeches, which I summarize below. More than that, we heard some important arguments and had a very insightful discussion about the science in "Constructive Developmental Science", "Developmental Robotics", "Autonomous Mental Development", or however you'd like to call it. Below I try to wrap up these arguments and try to situate them in context of recent debates in the ICDL community.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The image-scratch paradigm: a new paradigm for evaluating infants' motivated gaze control

Our project's most recent paper, that I had the pleasure to co-author, has appeared in Nature's Scientific Reports. It introduces a new experimental paradigm to assess infants' skill to grasp the effects of their actions and use them appropriately. Not an easy thing, since infants' motor abilities are not very versatile and precise. So even if their brains have figured out the effects of their actions and when to take them, they might not be able to execute them well enough - well enough for an experimenter to figure out what they are up to. Their eyes, however, they can control on a low level very early, which opens chances to measure their general ability to get and utilize their actions' effects.
  • Miyazaki, M., H. Takahashi, M. Rolf, H. Okada, and T. Omori, "The image-scratch paradigm: a new paradigm for evaluating infants' motivated gaze control", Scientific reports 4(5498), 06/2014. (online, pdf
Abstract Human infants show spontaneous behaviours such as general movement, goal-directed behaviour, and self-motivated behaviour from a very early age. However, it is unclear how these behaviours are organised throughout development. A major hindrance to empirical investigation is that there is no common paradigm for all ages that can circumvent infants' underdeveloped verbal and motor abilities. Here, we propose a new paradigm, named the image-scratch task, using a gaze-contingent technique that is adaptable to various extents of motor ability. In this task, participants scratch off a black layer on a display to uncover pictures beneath it by using their gaze. We established quantitative criteria for spontaneous eye-movement based on adults' gaze-data and demonstrated that our task is useful for evaluating eye-movements motivated by outcome attractiveness in 8-month-olds. Finally, we discuss the potential of this paradigm for revealing the mechanisms and developmental transitions underlying infants' spontaneous and intentional behaviours.