In this interview Michael Arbib presents the role of mirror systems in grasp imitation in monkeys and language aquisition in humans. His work in neuroscience in general has inspired a great number of roboticists around the world for tasks involving imitation and learning (e.g. A. Billard, E. Oztop, M.Elshaw, Stefan Schaal and Yiannis Demiris ...). After all, not everyone has a robot named after them (Damper, R. I., French, R. L. B. and Scutt, T. W. (2000))!
He also explains why you might be scared of spiders and the role of mirror systems in empathy and emotions. With his recent book edited with Jean-Marc Fellous entitled "Who Needs Emotions?: The Brain Meets the Robot" (Oxford University Press, 2005) he dives into the world of robot feelings. Do we want passionate robots? What types of emotions should they display, faked human emotions for human-machine interactions or true emotions capable of driving them through "life-threatening" situations. Finally, how can this be done?
Arbib has published over 322 scholarly articles and is the author or editor of nearly 40 books. Among which are "The Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks" (The MIT Press, Second Edition, 2003) and "From Action to Language via the Mirror System" (Cambridge University Press, 2006).