Learning and Development of Contextual Action (CONTACT)

Project leader

Funding source

EU Sixth Framework Programme - New and Emerging Science and Technology

Project Details

Start date: 01/09/2005
End date: 28/02/2009
Funding: 2000000 EUR


By spontaneously generating and also observing/imitating manipulative gestures, infants quickly learn how to interact with their environment. At the same time, communicative abilities develop leading to a more complex use of speech. Are these motor abilities developing independently? Or are there fundamentally similar mechanisms in the development of perception and production, for both speech and manipulation? We believe that the latter is the case. This project represents an ambitious attempt to investigate the parallel development of manipulatory and speech gestures from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Experts in Robotics, Neuroscience, and Child-Development will collaborate to build an embodied artifact, which will develop its motor capabilities both in manipulation and speech. The hypothesis deals with a scientific finding indicating that actions are represented more in terms of goals then in terms of procedures. This finding brings to a possible unified theory underlying both manipulation and speech, apart from obvious differences relative to effectors and sensory modalities involved. Moreover, action representations can be addressed not only during execution but also by the perception of action-related stimuli. Consequently, production and perception will be investigated at the same time. The focus will be, therefore, on a combined Perception-Production model that develops incrementally, finally leading to a system that learns to: Perceive and produce simple manipulatory gestures and words Infer the goal of gestures, and meaning of words. Our approach will give us the possibility to experimentally manipulate the development process on the basis of the experiments and theories reached by the Neuroscience partners. At the same time, theoretical questions and implementation issues arising during artifact development will challenge neuroscience labs and their exploration of living systems.

External Partners

Last updated on 2017-24-03 at 12:59