Scientists at the University of Hertfordshire built a three-foot tall humanoid robot iCub, called DeeChee to figure out how humans learn to talk.
A study that is published in the science journal PLoS One, demonstrates how the robot can learn simple words for colors and shapes with a non-scientist human volunteers. The volunteers would spend a few minutes with the robot and blocks with colored sides trying to teach it words as if it were a toddler.
“Since our work concerns the acquisition of a human language by a robot we are inspired by the process in humans. Thus the basis of our experimental work is a real-time interactive situation where a human participant talks to a robot, using his or her own spontaneous words,” the authors said. “Words can emerge from babble using a statistical learning process not specific to language demonstrates that this stage of language acquisition does not require hard-wired grammar faculties.”
DeeChee is similar to a child that is between 6 to 14 months old. When the volunteers would spend time with the iCub robot, it would begin to expand it’s vocabulary from, “random syllabic babble to producing some salient wordforms, the names of simple shapes and colors,” the authors stated in their study.
Whenever the robot was able to identify a word and repeat it back, the volunteer would praise DeeChee with words like, “well done” or “good.” By using positive reinforcement, the robot would save the words within it’s vocabulary.
“Learning needs interaction with a human, and robot embodiment evokes appropriate reactions in a human teacher, which disembodied software does not,” computer scientist and study leader Caroline Lyon said.
The iCub robot still has a long way to go before it develops any fluent type of language, but researchers say it could be the beginning of creating robots that can speak naturally to us.
iCub Robot Learning Names of Shapes and Colors
Language learning robot – iCub in dialogue with a human teacher, learning the names of shapes and colours.