Logo U. Osnabrueck Institute of Computer ScienceKnowledge-Based Systems Research Group

Multi-sensory Autonomous Cognitive Systems
interacting with dynamic Environments
for perceiving and using Affordances (MACS)


The MACS project is a Specifically Targeted Research Project (STReP) for Exploring and Exploiting the Concept of Affordances for Robot Control.

The project is funded by the European Commission's 6th Framework Programme IST under contract/grant number FP6-004381. The Commission's support is gratefully acknowledged.

Logo 6th FP Logo IST
Sixth Framework
Information Society
Technologies (IST)


Affordances, affordance-based planning, function-centered perception, ecological psychology, Gibson, hybrid robot control architectures, autonomous robots, behavior-based robot control


The MACS project aims at investigating the potential benefits of affordances as the underlying principle of a complete robot control architecture.

The term affordance was coined by ecological psychologist James Jerome Gibson who used it to describe a function-based view on perception. In this context, an affordance refers to the potentiality for action that an environmental object might afford to a particular agent. A flat, rigid, knee-high, and stable surface, for instance, would afford for a humanoid agent to be something to sit on; in other words: the agent perceives the affordance of sitability as a relation between the just mentioned environmental features and the agent's own capabilities and constraints.

In contrast to the currently more wide-spread object-based perception approaches, the affordance-based approach does not aim at recognizing objects and to classify them into predefined categories in order to determine what interaction possibilities the objects afford. Instead, an agent directly perceives the functional characteristics of environmental features. It therefore becomes able to, for instance, sit on every appropriate surface rather than merely on those objects it recognizes to be chairs. Moreover, the same gymnastic ball that affords sitting on, may afford tossing if the agent simply looks for something to play with. The affordances of environmental objects which an agent perceives are thus context-dependent and related to the agent itself and its capabilities for action.

To evaluate this theory, a hybrid robot control architecture is being developed that explicitly bases all its different components on the affordance concept making them 1st-class citizens. Within the MACS consortium it is believed that the resulting system will show to benefit of this integration in terms of robustness and generality.

The project duration is three years until the end of 2007 and the consortium consists of the following partners:

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Fraunhofer IAIS, Sankt Augustin, D
AR Department, (Coordinator)

Joanneum Research, Graz, A
CAPE Group
Linköpings Universitet, Linköping, S
IDA Department
Logo Metu Kovan Logo OFAI Logo UOS KBS
Middle East Technical University, Ankara, TR
KOVAN Department
Österreichische Studiengesellschaft für Kybernetik
(OFAI) Vienna, A
Neural Computation and Robotics
University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, D
Knowledge-Based Systems Group

(since 12/2006)

MACS at the Knowledge-Based Systems Group

Within the project consortium, the Knowledge-Based Systems Group of the University of Osnabrück is dealing mainly with the following topics:



The official project page can be found here (external link).

If you have any questions about the MACS project, please feel free to contact Joachim Hertzberg

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