Research on artificial intelligence and robotics is growing at a rapid pace, but are we ready to see a robot bearing the Olympic torch in 2012? Scientists at Wales' Aberystwyth University are convinced that this should happen, and have nominated the iCub child-like humanoid robot to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay for London's 2012 Summer Olympics. It's intended to be a tribute to computing pioneer Alan Turing, as 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

iCub was nominated by Dr James Law, from Aberystwyth's Department of Computer Science. According to Dr Law, such a tribute to Turing's achievements is meant to inspire future generations of engineers and scientists. Born in London on June 23, 1912, Alan Turing is often referred to as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. He is widely known for his contribution to breaking the code of the German Enigma cipher machine during WWII, through designing a code-breaking electromechanical device called "the bombe."

Other achievements include designing the first stored-program computer, as well as the influential "Turing test" which is a way of assessing a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior. "These achievements led to the computerized era we live in today," says Dr Law.

The robot has been nominated through an Olympic Torch Relay program sponsored by Lloyds TSB, but as New Scientist reports, it appears that iCub does not meet the basic requirements. It is indicated that a nominee must be at least 12 years old and live in the United Kingdom. The robot is certainly younger than 12 and while being a UK resident, it's actually ... not alive, after all.

Perhaps, however, they might decide to bend the rules for the unusual nominee.

Aimed at investigating children's learning processes and translating them into strategies for learning in robotics, iCub was developed under the RobotCub international project. The robot's dimensions are meant to resemble those of a 3.5 year-old child. It is 1 meter (3.28 ft) tall, with 53 degrees-of-freedom, and is equipped with visual, vestibular, auditory, haptic, proprioceptive and torque sensors. Capable of displaying facial expressions, its head has two VGA cameras, two microphones, gyros and accelerometers.

Source: Aberystwyth University