From the first telling of the story of Pinocchio, the inanimate and mechanical have had a desire to become real.
This has been a story retold for over a century. Man has dreamt of creating a being that would love us unconditionally and develop into a true and loving child. Stories and movies such as the above mentioned Pinocchio, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, David from “A.I.” , the Andy’s from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get my drift), and others tell a story of a desire for something to become like us–Human. The doll or machine’s journey usually includes showing Humanity from the eyes of something that can see not only our greatest qualities (which we take for granted) or our worst.
This iCub Humanoid Robot was created by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (The Italian Institute of Technology). These robots, which are totally open sourced in their hardware and software, are the size of a 3.5 year-old child. Each one is used by various researchers throughout the world. However, DeeChee is used by computer scientist Caroline Lyon at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.
Dr. Lyon programmed DeeChee with about 40,000 syllables found in the English text. Next, they sat with it and began teaching it to speak. DeeChee, like a human baby, is learning how to speak from listening to a human teacher. The teacher speaks a color and symbol and shows it to DeeChee on a cube. DeeChee then goes through its systems and repeats what it thinks it’s hearing until it gets the right answers. Just like a baby!
Granted, DeeChee’s not able to speak a full sentence yet; but scientists are hopeful that this continued pattern of learning will teach robots to not only speak “more humanly”, but aid in creating newer ways to teach children to speak at an early age, as well as studying language acquisition.
Of course, the future uses of these amazing robots are still in the research stage. Scientists will continue updating the software and hardware to make them more human. Who knows, in another fifteen to twenty plus years, we may actually see androids akin to the ones portrayed in the movies, I, Robot or Terminator. However, whether or not they will ever have the ability to become human is still a long way of, if not impossible.
Baby Robot Learns First Words (news.discovery.com)
- British researchers create robot that can learn simple words by conversing with humans (bostonherald.com)
- Aquila: An Open-Source GPU-Accelerated Toolkit for Cognitive and Neuro-Robotics Research (slideshare.net)