A key question in the study of both biological and artificial intelligence is the extent to which symbolic processing is required for planning and execution of motor activities such as mobility and manipulation, and the extent to which environmental aspects or objects give rise to observable brain activity. We call this process “symbolic ideation.”
We ask what sort of symbolic representations must be constructed in order to successfully negotiate uneven terrain, avoid obstacles, and physically handle objects? We propose to study the questions above through the formulation and execution of various experiments involving animal and human subjects with the aim of improved understanding of the conditions under which symbolic representations are generated during the performance of various observation, mobility, manipulation, and mobile manipulation tasks. In parallel, we will seek to develop algorithms for robot attention and planning that incorporate aspects of our observations and conclusions about biological systems.