Building Cyd's 'Mind'

Virtual Cyd is an artificial person that inhabits a world of computer animation. When setting out to create Cyd's "mind" our student researchers did not have to begin from scratch. PT-Project students had already created a robotic person, named Iris. Much of the same AI (artificial intelligence) software could be adapted for use in building Cyd. It was decided that the central AI program used for Iris would also be used for Cyd. It is called ProtoThinker (or "PT" for short) written by John Barker at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. There is an important difference between Iris and Cyd, however. PT served as the entire control center for Iris. There were limitations with this approach, however. PT was never designed to be a "robot control center". It was written as a pedagogical tool for students to use on a PC to explore the nature of mind, of language and related topics. It was only possible for PT to function as the "mind" (the computer is the "brain") of our robot because Professor Barker was willing and able to make changes to his program that would allow statements uttered by the PT software to control our text-to-speech program and our robotic devices.

But this "patchwork" approach was cumbersome and had built-in limitations. Since we expect to be creating increasingly sophisticated "artificial persons" during the coming years, it became necessary to design a new computer architecture for our artificial persons, with a "central control center" capable of controlling a wide range of computer programs and other devices--including new pieces of AI software, video cameras, VRML software, robotic arms, computer animation, text-to-speech, voice recognition and the like. Designing this new computer architecture -- the "AP (Artificial Person) Control Center" was the most challenging of several programming tasks required of the computer science students working on the project.