Computer scientists at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, are working on a robot that can be taught a human language. The researchers have developed a robot capable of learning simple words from conversations with humans.
The study draws its inspiration from the early experience of babies with language. But unlike babies, the new robot can learn simple words in minutes from conversations. At first, all the robot could utter was babbling sounds, almost incomprehensible; sounds that are similar to those made by babies as they transition to their first words.
The robot is named DeeChee and is specifically designed to produce English syllables. When the study began, the robot was a language greenhorn like an infant; it could not speak a word. According to the researchers, its initial phrases were something like, "een rain rain mahdl kross." Just like a baby, the robot picks out words from human conversations that are repeated the most.
The scientists programmed the robot to break up the words into individual syllables. The syllables are recorded in its memory and ranked according to the number of times they feature in a conversation. The robot can easily pick up words for colour, for instance “red,” “green,” or encouragement, for instance “good,” “well done”, etc.
The robot can also smile and blink during conversation.