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Thursday, June 14, 2012

iCub Humanoid Robot Learns Language Like A Small Child, Only Faster

Robots can develop basic language skills through interaction with a human, according to new results from researchers at the University of Hertfordshire and published in PLoS ONE.

Dr Caroline Lyon, Professor Chrystopher Nehaniv and Dr Joe Saunders have carried out experiments as part of the iTalk project with the childlike iCub humanoid robot to show how language learning emerges. Initially the robot can only babble and perceives speech as a string of sounds, not divided up into words. 

The iCub robot named DeeChee learning basic language with Professor Chrystopher Nehaniv and Dr Joe Saunders.
Credit: University of Hertfordshire

After engaging in a few minutes of “conversation” with humans, in which the participants were instructed to speak to the robot as if it were a small child, the robot adapted its output to the most frequently heard syllables to produce some word forms such as the names of simple shapes and colours.

Dr Caroline Lyon said: “It is known that infants are sensitive to the frequency of sounds in speech, and these experiments show how this sensitivity can be modelled and contribute to the learning of word forms by a robot.”

The iTalk project teaches the robot to speak using methods similar to those used to teach children and is a key part in the learning process of the human-robot interaction. Although the iCub robot is learning to produce word forms, it does not know their meaning, and learning meanings is another part of the iTalk project’s research. These scientific and technological advances could have a significant impact on the future generation of interactive robotic systems.

The iCub is the humanoid robot developed at IIT as part of the EU project RobotCub and subsequently adopted by more than 20 laboratories worldwide. It has 53 motors that move the head, arms & hands, waist, and legs. It can see and hear, it has the sense of proprioception (body configuration) and movement (using accelerometers and gyroscopes). Scientists are working to improve on this in order to give the iCub the sense of touch and to grade how much force it exerts on the environment. 


The  iTalk  project aims to develop artificial embodied agents able to acquire complex behavioural, cognitive, and linguistic skills through individual and social learning. This will be achieved through experiments with the iCub humanoid robot to learn to handle and manipulate objects and tools autonomously, to cooperate and communicate with other robots and humans, and to adapt to changing internal, environmental, and social conditions.

 

Contacts and sources:
University of Hertfordshire

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