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Mind, Machine and Motor Nexus (M3X)

Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.


The Mind, Machine and Motor Nexus (M3X) Program supports fundamental research that explores embodied reasoning as mediated by bidirectional sensorimotor interaction between human and synthetic actors. For the purposes of this program, embodiment is defined as the capacity to interact with physics-based environments.  

Interaction between human and synthetic actors is expanding in scale and scope across numerous fields and endeavors. Among these are areas where safety and performance are paramount, but also where ingenuity and risk-taking are essential to success. The M3X Program seeks to spur innovative and path-breaking work that can improve understanding of interaction between human and synthetic actors in a broad range of settings, while also exploring implications for the advancement of fundamental theory, foundational technologies, and meaningful applications. Successful submissions to the M3X program will therefore advance knowledge by exploring the convergence of human and synthetic actors’ capabilities and actions during the performance of tasks situated within physics-based environments.

The following key concepts define the M3X program and therefore must be captured in any competitive proposal submitted to the program:

  • Human and Synthetic Actors, which refer respectively to human beings and to embodied constructs with the additional capacity for engaging in sensorimotor interactions (defined below) as enabled by a potentially wide range of capabilities such as sensing, reasoning, communicating, interacting, and learning. Competitive proposals to the M3X program must consider the interaction between at least one human actor and at least one synthetic actor.
  • Sensorimotor interaction, which refers to the exchange of information between at least one human actor and at least one synthetic actor through any sensorimotor channel (e.g., haptic, visual, etc.) available to human or synthetic actors in real, virtual or hybrid environments. This interaction must be bidirectional between human and synthetic actors.
  • Embodied reasoning, which refers to the capability of human and synthetic actors to engage in cognitive activities that produce knowledge or expectations about each other (e.g., via intent detection, trust-building, social engagement, etc.). Such capability must be enabled or evolved through sensorimotor interaction, in a physics-based environment. Other aspects of embodied reasoning—such as understanding of task requirements or of the environment within which co-activities are embedded—may also be present.
  • Physics-based environment, which refers to a real and/or simulated environment where laws of physics are defined and applied to objects and to interactions within that environment.

The M3X program encourages research on sensorimotor interaction and embodied reasoning between human and synthetic actors in real, virtual, or hybrid settings, over a range of spatial and temporal scales, and for different modes of interaction. The M3X program supports research derived from conceptual, mathematical, empirical, experimental, computational, and cross-cutting perspectives, among others. Multi-disciplinary perspectives are encouraged but must be integrated to promote a holistic treatment of the research.

Topics of interest to the M3X program include — but are by no means limited to — collaboration, cooperation, and competition among human and synthetic actors; the role of virtual, mixed and hybrid environments in decision making and learning; new approaches to modeling, guiding and controlling processes of reasoning and interaction; as well as the development of research infrastructure (including open source instrumentation, models, data and environments) that will accelerate research in this area.

Proposals that do not engage each of the three concepts listed above (i.e., human and synthetic actors linked through sensorimotor interaction and with capabilities for embodied reasoning) may be returned without review. Research involving only a single human actor or a single synthetic actor is not appropriate for the M3X program and should be directed towards other NSF programs. Similarly, research that does not include interaction with a physics-based environment, such as interaction between actors based exclusively on language or exchange of characters on a screen, is also not appropriate for the M3X program.

Updates and announcements

Program contacts

Alexander Leonessa
m3x@nsf.gov 703-292-2633 ENG/CMMI
Alexandra Medina-Borja
m3x@nsf.gov 703-292-7557 ENG/CMMI
David Mendonca
m3x@nsf.gov 703-292-8360 ENG/CMMI

Awards made through this program

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Map of recent awards made through this program