Do You Speak Lingodroid?

Ruth Schulz and Her Team at the University of Queensland Develop Robots Capable of Creating Their Own Language


¨ Where are you? ¨ asks your friend impatiently as you struggle to find each other in a busy park you have never been to, ¨i’m at the fountain, to the left of the swing set. How far away are you?¨ A conversation such as this is an example of how language enables us to gain information about places we have little experience with. While it’s easy to find our way around our own neighborhood, we need to be able to communicate to find our way around someone else’s.

Researchers from the University of Queensland Australia have developed a pair of mobile robots that are able to share information about places and relationships between places through the use of their own language. The Lingodroids are two separate robots who each hold their own unique representations of the world around them or ¨cognitive maps¨. These cognitive maps have been formed by each robot’s experience with the area around it. Once a robot has gained enough experience in a given area, its cognitive map becomes sufficiently developed to guide it to a goal location.

Through the use of their own language (which sounds like phone tones, later translated into syllables to make it easier for humans to understand), the robots played a series of ¨language games¨ where they aimed to meet at a location by asking each other a series of simple questions such as: how far? What direction? etc. Robots were able to share knowledge with each other and in turn gained understanding about places they had not yet experienced. They also generated new names for places that did not have one yet. For example, the Lingodroid phrase “reya rije duka hiza heto” means:  “If I’m at the bottom right corner of the room facing the top right corner of the room, then nearby to the right is a place that I can’t get to that I’m calling heto.” By arriving at the same location, robots were also giving a common name to that place. Research such as this serves as a platform to study cognitive processes such as: language development, planning and imagination.  Read the full study  HERE.

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