What is Cognitive Technology?

Cognitive technology is a conglomeration of research and development areas that are expanding human capabilities at the cross-roads of cognition and technology.

The domain of cognitive psychology includes topics such as human perception, memory, comprehension, decision making, problem solving, thinking and reasoning. The aim of innovation in cognitive technology is to mimic or improve these psychological processes as they occur at the individual or the group level.

There are three main threads of work associated with cognitive technology.

Replicate Human Cognition

One line attempts to reproduce the marvels of human mental functioning within machines. Within this thread, cognitive technologies are essentially the products that embody artificial intelligence. Cognitive technology thus becomes a close synonym of AI.

Application areas include natural language processing, machine learning, and robotics. The overall idea is to develop technologies that can perform complex tasks typically associated with human cognition and perception. The advent of such technologies leads to advantages of efficiency, scale, and cost.

An example is the development of natural language processing techniques to grade essays. Another is the exploration of digital image processing to classify MRI scans for tumors.

Enhance Human Cognition

A second major research and development thread associated with cognitive technology attempts to use various technologies to improve human cognitive functioning.

One example is the design of educational video games and other interactive multimedia learning environments to improve learning effectiveness. Another is the study of video chat, VR, and other forms of collaborative technologies to support group problem solving and decision making.

As these examples illustrate, the kinds of technologies brought to facilitate human cognitive functions do not need to be of the AI variety. However, they can be. For instance, machine learning algorithms that attempt to organize and schedule learning and practice sessions in a learning management system embody both R&D threads.

Improve Human-Machine Interactions

A third R&D strand pertaining to cognitive technology focuses explicitly on the possible ways in which people and machines can relate. This strand is most clearly represented by researchers in the areas of human computer interaction, user-centered design, and user experience design.

Examples within this line include advances in interactive visual web applications that are highly intuitive, thanks to detailed studies of users interacting with the systems.

Overall, cognitive technology represents a wide variety of multidisciplinary research and development efforts that focus on the dynamic intersection of cognition and technology, with the ultimate aims of creating smarter machines, smarter humans, and vastly more intelligent human-machine systems.