Using a Mobile Robot for Cognitive Mapping

Chee K. Wong, Jochen Schmidt, Wai K. Yeap

When animals (including humans) first explore a new environment, what they remember is fragmentary knowledge about the places visited. Yet, they have to use such fragmentary knowledge to find their way home. Humans naturally use more powerful heuristics while lower animals have shown to develop a variety of methods that tend to utilize two key pieces of information, namely distance and orientation information. Their methods differ depending on how they sense their environment. Could a mobile robot be used to investigate the nature of such a process, commonly referred to in the psychological literature as cognitive mapping? What might be computed in the initial explorations and how is the resulting "cognitive map" be used to return home? In this paper, we presented a novel approach using a mobile robot to do cognitive mapping. Our robot computes a "cognitive map" and uses distance and orientation information to find its way home. The process developed provides interesting insights into the nature of cognitive mapping and encourages us to use a mobile robot to do cognitive mapping in the future, as opposed to its popular use in robot mapping.