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TECHNOLOGY: Machine Speak: Robot Baby Learns Words

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TECHNOLOGY: Machine Speak: Robot Baby Learns Words

Post by Naseem Abbas Malik on Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:11 am

Machine Speak: Robot Baby Learns Words







Report by: Vivian Wagner



"It is unclear why iCub should do any better
than a nonphysical counterpart -- i.e., a software program designed to
engage in conversation with a human trainer and learn from him to speak
in a manner similar to language acquisition by infants," noted Ai
Research President Yaki Dunietz. "It will be interesting to see how a
bot who also possesses a physical body learns to speak better than a
bodiless one."

It's a cute little robot
learning how to say "green" and "blue." And as part of a major project
undertaken by robotics researchers at the
University of Hertfordshire, it's also promising to transform perceptions of how robots -- and humans -- learn language.

DeeChee, which is built to look, act and learn like a 6-to-14-month-old child, is the subject of a report recently published in
PLoS ONE by Caroline Lyon, Chrystopher L. Nehaniv and Joe Saunders, researchers with Hertfordshire's Adaptive Systems Research Group.

DeeChee is designed on the open source
iCub platform, which
is available for anyone to create similar robots for a variety of types
of research, including language acquisition.




iCubs are designed to appear like human children, based on the notion
that the appearance of a robot affects how people interact with it.
Their design also draws on the "embodied cognition hypothesis," meaning
that the robot's own perceptions and development depend, in part, on its
embodiment in humanoid form.






Emerging Words


DeeChee was programmed with basic sounds and a learning algorithm,
approximating the capabilities and hard-wiring of a human baby. It was
then subjected to intensive language training and tests, and over time
it appears to have learned some basic words.

"The advent of humanoid robots has enabled a new approach to
investigating the acquisition of language, and we report on the
development of robots able to acquire rudimentary linguistic skills,"
the researchers noted.

"In our experiments some salient one-syllable word forms are learnt
by a humanoid robot in real-time interactions with naive participants.
Words emerge from random syllabic babble through a learning process
based on a dialogue between the robot and the human participant, whose
speech is perceived by the robot as a stream of phonemes," they
explained.

The robot has made significant progress in acquiring, learning and speaking words, the team reported.

"Word forms are usually produced by the robot after a few minutes of
dialogue, employing a simple, real-time, frequency dependent mechanism,"
they wrote. "This work shows the potential of human-robot interaction
systems in studies of the dynamics of early language acquisition."

This research might, in fact, reveal as much about humans as it does
about robots, according to Chris Robson, chief scientist with
Parametric Marketing.

"There's always a tension in artificial intelligence and robotics
about how much we as the programmers teach up front, and how much we
leave up to learning," Robson told TechNewsWorld.

"What's interesting about this research is that they've gone back to
the very foundations of language development," he explained. "That's
interesting both from the point of view of artificial intelligence and
robotics, and also from the perspective of understanding human
development. Outside of robotics, this might help us to understand how
we as humans learn -- how much is preprogrammed and how much is learned.
It's a very brave and fascinating approach."




Real Language?




This research is part of a contemporary movement that recognizes
language acquisition does not occur in a void, but in the real world
with embodied creatures -- whether they're humans or robots, said Yaki
Dunietz, president of
Ai Research.

"In the past, most research in automated language acquisition was
done with computer software -- there was no need for a physical
counterpart to the logical learning machine," Dunietz told
TechNewsWorld.

"Robotics projects, on the other hand, focused on the physical
aspects: vision, motor control, etc. The iTalk program merges the two
together: It tries to teach a physical robot to use natural language,"
he explained.

"It is unclear why iCub should do any better than a non-physical
counterpart -- i.e., a software program designed to engage in
conversation with a human trainer, and learn from him to speak in a
manner similar to language acquisition by infants," noted Dunietz. "It
will be interesting to see how a bot who also possesses a physical body
learns to speak better than a bodiless one."

Is it really language, however, that DeeChee is learning? Or is it just rote repetition of sounds?

"It is definitely learning some language," said Dunietz.

"The question is how much language is being learned. If the robot
learns to respond to a certain input with a certain output, it has
already learned some language. But computers have learned some (human)
language from the day they were conceived," he pointed out.

"The question is, of course, whether it shall pass the Turing Test:
Whether it can converse, in plain English, with a native-English
speaker, so that this competent speaker will grade the conversation as
indistinguishable from that of a human," Dunietz concluded.

Although this study is regarded as a step forward in ongoing language
acquisition and robotics research, much remains to be done in the
field.

"It seems that some learning was achieved, although the authors
discuss many limitations," Paola Escudero, senior lecturer at the
MARCS Institute and visiting professor at the brain and cognition research program at the University of Amsterdam, told TechNewsWorld.

"I think it is a good first step, but the authors need to incorporate
more important empirical findings to their models for their robot to
perform more like a real infant/child," Escudero said.

The gold standard is the acquisition of natural language that
reflects true intelligence, according to Dunietz, and research like this
brings humans ever closer to that goal.

"When computers are able to speak in a natural language, in a way
indistinguishable to humans, that would be the final stage of a new,
non-biological artificial life-form," he said. "If Alan Turing was right
in placing 'intelligence' or 'rationality' in the ability to hold a
human-like conversation, then we are a step away from these new
creatures: robots, or as I prefer to call them, 'virtual
personalities.'"

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Re: TECHNOLOGY: Machine Speak: Robot Baby Learns Words

Post by Rahat Ameer on Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:19 am

Achha!!!! clown clown clown clown clown
I can't believe this........
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