Gibson’s theory of affordance, in its adherence to bottom-up direct perception, is antithetical to the top-down inferential models often proposed by modern robotics research purporting to tackle it. Such research assumes internal representation to be sacrosanct, but given current developments, to what extent can this assumption now be re-examined? The recently proposed sensorimotor contingency theory furthers the theoretical argument that internal representation is unnecessary, and its proof- of-concept application in robotics as well as the subsequent explosion in deep learning methodology sheds new light on the possibility of equipping robots with the capacity for directly perceiving their environments by exploiting correlated changes in their sensory inputs triggered by executing specific motor programs. This re-examination of direct perception is only one of several issues warranting scrutiny in current robotic affordance research.
The aim of this special issue is to highlight the relevance of Gibson’s notion of affordance for developmental and cognitive robotics. The issue is focused on contributions from the current panorama of robotics with an emphasis on theories from the ecological, cognitive, developmental and sensorimotor accounts.