Olivier Georgeon's research blog—also known as the story of little Ernest, the developmental agent.

Keywords: situated cognition, constructivist learning, intrinsic motivation, bottom-up self-programming, individuation, theory of enaction, developmental learning, artificial sense-making, biologically inspired cognitive architectures, agnostic agents (without ontological assumptions about the environment).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ernest 6.4

Ernest 6.4 is the same as Ernest 6.3 except that he has four elementary schemas: move forward, turn right, turn left, and sense. Move forward succeeds if there is no wall ahead and Ernest can move, it fails if he bumps into a wall. Turn left or right never fail. Sense succeeds if there is a wall ahead and fails if there is not. Ernest 6.4 can only sense the square just in front of him, we can figure this sense as an antenna.

Ernest also has six elementary acts with the following satisfaction values:
- (Move forward, Succeed, 5) He "loves" moving forward.
- (Move forward, Fail, -5) He "hates" bumping into walls.
- (Turn left or turn right, Succeed, -1) He does not "like" so much turning.
- (Sense, Succeed, -1) He does not "like" so much sensing a wall in front of him.
- (Sense, Fail, 0) He is "indifferent" of sensing an empty square in front of him.

In this environment, when Ernest performs a sense schema, the sensed square flashes yellow. When he bumps into a wall, the bumped wall flashes red and Ernest says "Ouch!".

At the beginning, Ernest does not know the connection between the sense schemas and the move schemas. But he progressively learns that when a sense schema succeeds he should not perform a move forward schema because it will fail. Then, he learns a good second-order schema consisting of performing a sense schema before moving forward. This second-order schema can be seen as an efficient "strategy" to avoid dissatisfaction.

When an abstract schema fails during its enaction, Ernest sais "No!" and abandon the schema. When an abstract schema fully succeeds he says "Good!". So "No"s and "Good"s indicate that abstract schemas start being enacted.

In this video, we can see that Ernest first learns a first layer of abstract schemas made of the sequence sense - move forward, then he learns a second layer that gives him the best satisfaction he can get in this environment by moving forward twice and turning once.

Interestingly, Ernest does not make any distinction between perception and action. He only has perceivomotor schemas that can succeed or fail. I had to reprogram his environment to handle this mechanism, because current available environments (such as those provided in the Soar package) are based on the classical perception/computation/action cycle.

Despite many authors are saying that perception and action should be kept embedded (since Piaget or before), to my knowledge, Ernest is the first implementation to do so, isn't it?

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