Language-Inventing Robots

B: “Attack of the Clones was on last night.”

A: “Missed it. I watched Two and a Half Men reruns.”

B: “I should have, too.”

Lingodroids are nifty little robots who create their own language. Ruth Schulz and her group of researchers from the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology developed the robots, who not only speak aloud (rather than communicating via network, for example), they create their own words and simple grammatical rules to understand one another.

Evan Ackerman explains the project simply:

To understand the concept behind the project, consider a simplified case of how language might have developed. Let’s say that all of a sudden you wake up somewhere with your memory completely wiped, not knowing English, Klingon, or any other language. And then you meet some other person who’s in the exact same situation as you. What do you do?

What might very well end up happening is that you invent some random word to describe where you are right now, and then point at the ground and tell the word to the other person, establishing a connection between this new word and a place.

In the most basic terms, the robots learn language by playing a game. “Where are we?” one asks, to which the other replies with an invented word for the place they are. This simple toponymic lexicon builds a foundation of place nouns on which the robots can then expand with words for distance, direction and the spatial relationship between a current location and destination.

Check out the Lingodroids page on the University of Queensland site to read more about the language and how the robots developed over time. There are graphs and maps and all sorts of geeky info about our future robot overlords.

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