Seminar: Antonio Bicchi, "The geometry of haptic synergies in artificial touch and manipulation", July 4 at 11:30

Speaker: Antonio Bicchi, Università di Pisa
Title: The geometry of haptic synergies in artificial touch and manipulation
Time and location: Monday, July 4, 2011, at 11:30, Aula Magna

Abstract: In this talk I will consider two aspects of the complex relation between the hand as a cognitive organ for the sense of active touch, and its physical embodiment, i.e. the structure of the actuator and sensor systems that ultimately realize the link between perception and action. The concept at the core of the work is that of constraints that are imposed by the embodied characteristics of the hand and its sensorimotor apparatus on the learning and control strategies we use for such fundamental cognitive functions as exploring, grasping and manipulating. The viewpoint that will be taken here is that such constraints are not merely bounds that limit performance, but rather are the dominating factors which affected and effectively determined how cognition has developed in the unique, admirable form we are able to observe on Earth – hence, they really are to be considered "enabling constraints" which organize the hand embodied.  In the talk, I will review two systems of such enabling constraints, or synergies, respectively in the hand motor system and in the tactile and kinaesthetic sensory system, and their interaction. The understanding of motor and sensory synergies provides key ideas for advancing the state of the art in artificial system architectures for the "hand" as a cognitive organ, with the ultimate goal to learn from human data and hypotheses-driven simulations how to better control, and even design, robot hands and haptic interfaces.