Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics - CCNR


be.AI - biomimetic embodied AI - is a Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship programme awarded in 2020 in which we investigate how intelligence arises from the interaction of the brain with the body and the environment in order to build the next generation of more robust AI systems. Over a period of 7 years we will train 18 scholars in a unique interdisciplinary environment involving supervisors from many Schools and Departments at Sussex.

Wheeled indoor autonomous robot with omnidirectional wheels.

In contrast to many contemporary AI systems, intelligent behaviour in animals - including humans - arises from the interaction of brains, bodies and the environment and is quintessentially robust but also flexible and dynamic so that it can rapidly adapt to changing conditions. In order to understand biological intelligence and build next generation AI systems of similar robustness and flexibility we will need to move beyond replicating neural mechanisms in algorithmic form and develop a deep understanding of the nested and tightly coupled interactions among brains, bodies, and environments.

In the interdisciplinary be.AI Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme we train the next generation of AI researchers to pursue this goal, following AI's original definition: a description and emulation of biological learning and intelligence through the replication of biological capabilities in autonomous agents and human-centric AI systems. It is an essential next step for developing future AI systems that are robust but flexible and encapsulate better what we would expect from an intelligent agent. In doing so, be.AI builds on a distinctive Sussex strength within the AI research group, historically known as COGS and beyond.

be.AI is directed by Profs Thomas Nowotny, Andrew Philippides (both in the AI research group in Informatics) and Paul Graham (Neurosciences Division in Life Sciences), supported by an Academic Board, whose membership currently comprises Prof Luc Berthouze, Dr Chris Buckley, Dr Julie Weeds (all in the AI research group in Informatics) Prof Daniel Roggen (Engineering), Prof Thomas Baden (Life Sciences) and Prof Andy Clark (Philosophy).

The Advisory Board includes Prof Margaret Boden, OBE ScDFBA, co-founder of COGS, as the honorary Head of be.AI, Prof Cecilia Laschi (Pisa, Italy), Prof Martin Nawrot (Universität Köln), and Prof James Marshall (Opteran Technologies and University of Sheffield).

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