Lo on Cangelosi and Asada, 'Cognitive Robotics'

Angelo Cangelosi, Minoru Asada, eds. Cognitive Robotics. Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Agents Series. Cambridge.: MIT Press, 2022. 496 pp. $120.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-262-04683-1; $120.00 (e-book), ISBN 978-0-262-36933-6.

Reviewed by Kuan-Hung Lo (University of Maryland)
Published on H-Sci-Med-Tech (March, 2023)
Commissioned by Penelope K. Hardy (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

Printable Version: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=57921

Cognitive Robotics is an edited collection of contemporary cognitive robotics research. The book defines cognitive robotics as “the field that combines insights and methods from AI, as well as cognitive and biological science, to robots” (p. 4). According to this definition, the book argues that cognitive robotics is inspired by creatures in nature, as well as concerns regarding the environments that the creatures live in and the cognition of the creatures. Hence, cognitive robotics not only focuses on the processes involved in building a robot, including the design, structure, sensors, modeling, software, functions, body forms, and textures, but also studies how social norms, expectations, environments, and environmental variables are also at play. Based on the perceptions and actions of humans, robots perform their autonomy by adapting, anticipating, and learning from society, humans, and environments.

Instead of using equations and charts that confuse readers without an engineering background, the authors in Cognitive Robotics provide detailed explanations and illustrations to introduce cognitive robotics concepts, structure, and developments. Instead of jargon, the style of writing they use allows readers to quickly understand current developments in robotics and the activities occurring in robotics laboratories around the world. For instance, the figure on page 28 clearly represents what robots “think” or “see” through their sensors, and the figure on page 167 displays what information robots receive in their three-dimensional environment.

As a science and technology studies scholar, I am fascinated by how the book introduces modern cognitive robotics research by focusing on the interactions between robots, their environments, and humans. Christoph Bartneck and Jodi Forlizzi have previously provided three essential requirements for robots: autonomy or semi-autonomy, physical embodiment, and interactions with humans or environments.[1] Since cognitive robotics aims to build a robot that can perform cognitive actions (or at least, the robots have to make humans think that the robots have cognition), the interactions of cognitive robots with their environments and humans are critical. Several chapters in the book show how cognitive roboticists turn psychological activities into research data in order to develop cognitive robots. These discussions are an excellent resource for social scientists to analyze roboticists’ values and weighting of conflicting social norms, environmental variables, and human expectations and reactions. For example, in the chapter “Knowledge Representation and Reasoning,” the authors divide a “fetching” action into a series of motion models, including reaching, grasping, transporting, and releasing. Although fetching something appears to be a relatively easy action for humans, this action requires a series of interactions between the robot (including sensors, arms, software structure, and outputs), the objects, and the environment. Controlling undesired environmental variables and the action model suggests how roboticists weigh different social norms within the interaction between humans and robots, control environmental variables that enhance or hinder a robot’s performance, and understand human expectations about robots.

Although Cognitive Robotics is a robotics book, its writing style is friendly to readers with no robotics background. With this book, such readers can learn the language necessary to explore robotics. Also, the examples and the discussions of cognitive robotics in the book provide social scientists a rich resource about roboticists’ values, their moral weighting, and the activities that take place within the robotics laboratory. If you are a social science researcher with no robotics background and an interest in robotics, this book could be an important resource for you.


[1]. Christoph Bartneck and Jodi Forlizzi, “A Design-Centred Framework for Social Human-Robot Interaction,” in RO-MAN 2004. 13th IEEE international workshop on robot and human interactive communication (IEEE Catalog No. 04TH8759) (Kurashiki, Japan: September 2004), 591-94, doi: 10.1109/ROMAN.2004.1374827.

Citation: Kuan-Hung Lo. Review of Cangelosi, Angelo; Asada, Minoru, eds., Cognitive Robotics. H-Sci-Med-Tech, H-Net Reviews. March, 2023.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=57921

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.