iCub is a 1 metre high humanoid robot testbed for research into human cognition and artificial intelligence.
It was designed by the RobotCub Consortium of several European universities and built by Italian Institute of Technology, and is now supported by other projects such as ITALK. The robot is open-source, with the hardware design, software and documentation all released under the GPL license. The name is a partial acronym, cub standing for Cognitive Universal Body. Initial funding for the project was €8.5 million from Unit E5 – Cognitive Systems and Robotics – of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, and this ran for 65 months from 1 September 2004 until 31 January 2010.
The motivation behind the strongly humanoid design is the embodied cognition hypothesis, that human-like manipulation plays a vital role in the development of human cognition. A baby learns many cognitive skills by interacting with its environment and other humans using its limbs and senses, and consequently its internal model of the world is largely determined by the form of the human body. The robot was designed to test this hypothesis by allowing cognitive learning scenarios to be acted out by an accurate reproduction of the perceptual system and articulation of a small child so that it could interact with the world in the same way that such a child does.