Cognitive Robotics (Jan 2022)

Pinocchio: A language for action representation

  • Pietro Morasso,
  • Vishwanathan Mohan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2
pp. 119 – 131


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The development of a language of action representation is a central issue for cognitive robotics, motor neuroscience, ergonomics, sport, and arts with a double goal: analysis and synthesis of action sequences that preserve the spatiotemporal invariants of biological motion, including the associated goals of learning and training. However, the notation systems proposed so far only achieved inconclusive results. By reviewing the underlying rationale of such systems, it is argued that the common flaw is the choice of the ‘primitives’ to be combined to produce complex gestures: basic movements with a different degree of “granularity”. The problem is that in motor cybernetics movements do not add: whatever the degree of granularity of the chosen primitives their simple summation is unable to produce the spatiotemporal invariants that characterize biological motion. The proposed alternative is based on the Equilibrium Point Hypothesis and, in particular, on a computational formulation named Passive Motion Paradigm, where whole-body gestures are produced by applying a small set of force fields to specific key points of the internal body schema: its animation by carefully selected force fields is analogous to the animation of a marionette using wires or strings. The crucial point is that force fields do add, thus suggesting to use force fields as a consistent set of primitives instead of basic movements. This is the starting point for suggesting a force field-based language of action representation, named Pinocchio in analogy with the famous marionette. The proposed language for action description and generation includes three main modules: 1) Primitive force field generators, 2) a Body-Model to be animated by the primitive generators, and 3) a graphical staff system for expressing any specific notated gesture. We suggest that such language is a crucial building block for the development of a cognitive architecture of cooperative robots.