UPM Autonomous Systems Laboratory

The METATOOL Project

A metapredictive model of synthetic awareness for enabling tool invention

Around 3.3 million years ago our ancestors made the first tool. They imagined a new utensil and then knapped a stone until it became an efficient tool for cutting. Tool creation was an outstanding technological milestone for humanity providing us with unprecedented control over our environment. This ability required cognitive capabilities, such as prediction, metacognition, abstraction, and creativity—all of which are associated in humans with awareness. Current artificial intelligence systems and robots largely lack these capabilities and cannot even monitor and evaluate the consequence of their actions let alone develop new tools to address environmental challenges.

METATOOL aims to provide a computational model of synthetic awareness to enhance adaptation and achieve tool invention. This will enable a robot to monitor and self-evaluate its performance, ground and reuse this information for adapting to new circumstances, and finally unlock the possibility of creating new tools. Under the predictive account of awareness, and based on both neuroscientific and archeological evidence, we will:

  1. develop a novel computational model of metacognition based on predictive processing (metaprediction) and
  2. validate its utility in real robots in two use case scenarios: conditional sequential tasks and tool creation.

METATOOL will provide a blueprint for the next generation of artificial systems and robots that can perform adaptive, and anticipative, control with and without tools (improved technology), self-evaluation (novel explainable AI), and invent new tools (disruptive innovation). Tool-making and tool-invention are outstanding technological milestones in human history. A similar breakthrough can now be envisioned in engineering. We already have algorithms to enable machines to use tools and now it is time to develop robots that create tools.

Project partners:

Universidad Politecnica de Madrid ES
Technische Universiteit Delft NL
Humboldt Universitaet Zu Berlin DE
Stichting Radboud Universiteit NL
Nested Minds NL
Pal Robotics ES
Sussex University UK

Project Manager: Ricardo Sanz

Get more information about the project in this document.