A UK-based robot has learnt to say basic words in the same way children listen to and repeat syllables. This may not only advance androids, but also the field of early language acquisition
Can a robot learn to understand and speak a human language? New results from researchers from the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Computer Science, show it can develop basic language skills through conversation with humans.
In the same way that an infant picks up the frequency of sounds in speech, the child like iCub humanoid robot called DeeChee has learnt some simple word forms. Experiments carried out with DeeChee by Caroline Lyon, Chrystopher Nehaniv and Joe Saunders as part of the iTalk project have shown how language learning might emerge. Increasing our understanding of how we learn languages as we grow up. Like an infant, DeeChee can only babble and perceives speech as a string of sounds.
But after humans speak to DeeChee as if it was a small child, the robot adapts its output to the most frequently heard syllables. It “speaks” word forms such as the names of simple shapes and colours.
Although DeeChee is learning to produce word forms, it does not know their meaning – and learning meanings is another part of the iTalk project’s research.
Teaching DeeChee to speak using methods similar to those used to teach children is a key part of the learning process of the human-robot interaction which could have a significant impact on the future generation of interactive robot systems.