Recent research in comparative cognition has led to the discovery of surprisingly complex behaviour in animals as different as social insects (e.g. bumblebees), birds (e.g. corvids and parrots), and non-human apes. At the same time, developments in artificial intelligence and robotics have produced increasingly autonomous artificial systems capable of solving problems previously thought to be the exclusive privilege of real brains, such as using visual or tactile inputs to recognize objects and their properties, or transfer skills from one problem to another.
The Parrobots project includes scientists from Berlin, Vienna and Oxford, and aims to contribute to both fields, investigating the behaviour of real birds and of robotics counterparts. We conduct experiments in which parrots are asked to solve mechanical problems such as manipulating a series of interlocked obstacles to open a reward box, map how their performance evolves and explore their ability to generalize to novel problems, and use the tools of artificial intelligence and robotics to emulate their behaviour.