Penn Engineers Join Honda Research Institute’s ‘Curious Minded Machine’ Project

Penn Engineers Join Honda Research Institute’s ‘Curious Minded Machine’ Project

Curious Minded Machine collaborators, including Vijay Balasubramanian, Kostas Daniilidis and Jianbo Shi (second, third and last in front row)

Honda Research Institute USA has launched a new interdisciplinary collaboration designed to imbue robots with human-like curiosity, and Penn engineers are taking part. Known as Curious Minded Machine, the three-year project aims to expand the abilities of robots to think, learn and explore in more natural ways.

The Penn team is led by Kostas Daniilidis, the Ruth Yalom Stone Professor of Computer and Information Science (CIS), and includes Jianbo Shi, Professor
in CIS, and Vijay Balasubramanian, Cathy and Marc Lasry Professor of Physics in the School of Arts & Sciences.

The project also includes research teams from the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.

The Penn researchers will employ their expertise in computer vision and deep learning to enable robots to mimic the way biological organisms collect information about their surroundings and understand patterns in their environments. Existing methods for teaching robots where they are and where they need to go rely on human supervision and feedback, whereas living creature’s natural curiosity allows them to intuit and assimilate this sort of information almost immediately.

In a press release, HRI described the overarching goals of the project:

Honda Research Institute defines a Curious Minded Machine as a robot or intelligent system that learns continuously in a human-like, curiosity-driven way. By developing different models of curiosity to understand how children “learn to learn” about the world, the Curious Minded Machine research collaboration aims to create new types of machines that can acquire an interest in learning and knowledge, the ability to learn and discover, and the ability to interact with others. This type of intelligent system could extract intention from interactions instead of mimicking without understanding the purpose.

For example, just as coaches and trainers seek to optimize human performance, the Curious Minded Machine could enhance an individual’s personal and professional development. By observing human interactions and tasks, the Curious Minded Machine could identify better ways to complete tasks or help people achieve their goals.

“Our ultimate goal is to create new types of machines that can acquire an interest in learning and knowledge, and the ability to interact with the world and others,” said Soshi Iba, a principal scientist at Honda Research Institute USA, Inc. “We want to develop Curious Minded Machines that use curiosity to serve the common good by understanding people’s needs, empowering human capability, and ultimately addressing complex societal issues.”

Visit the project website at