Monday, May 30, 2011

I, Robot

First thing I should mention before writing this article about Lingodroids is that I have never seen anything science fiction in my life. Star Wars, I, Robot, Terminator- I know that these movies exist, but I haven’t actually seen them. The closest I have come to enjoying science fiction are Futurama cartoons, and even then some of the references whoosh straight above my head.  So any evil implications from the project I am about to describe will be completely lost on me, as I think all robots are great to have a drink with and push the planet a few inches out of orbit when the sun’s rays get too close to it.

I mentioned in previous articles that computers have their own language. There is no thought or emotion behind their language; it is just a series of protocols that the computer follows to get information from one place to another. A robot is a form of computer (Neoaikon), but the way it understands information is different from how the computers we use every day understand information, as it has the ability to perceive and sense data from its surroundings (Schulz, Glover, Wyeth, & Wiles, 2011).

Now, that sounds both pretty awesome that a machine without a brain can learn, but apparently that can also be a bad thing if one has seen the Terminator. Luckily for me, I have not so I can appreciate a recent study on robots – called Lingodroids- that has come out. There shouldn’t be any fear of robots because while they can learn, they cannot think exactly like human beings- their brains aren’t as flexible and can’t comprehend such complex human thoughts as culture and society (Schulz, Glover, Wyeth, & Wiles, 2011). But while robots do not have this “artificial intelligence” it isn’t because people aren’t trying to give it to them.

A project called the Lingodroid Project is allowing robots to develop their own language by allowing two robots to communicate with each other (Ackerman, 2011). Having more than one robot is important for this study because they will establish a language by looking at a random object and agreeing with each other on a made up word to call it. The Lingodroids learn their language through hundreds of games created by the scientists that determine what is in their location (Ackerman, 2011). Through the games, the robots will create a map of the area they are in. The more games they play, the more sophisticated their language becomes. It evolves from directions and point of references to how long it takes to get from one point to another and even stories about the objects in the location (Schulz, Glover, Wyeth, & Wiles, 2011).

While this is a huge achievement for the scientists, they have bigger dreams for their Lingodroids. The scientists want the Lingodroids to develop their own grammar (thereby becoming smarter than a portion of Facebook users-ZING!) and have their language alter their behavior (Schulz, Glover, Wyeth, & Wiles, 2011). By developing a robot brain that can mimic a human, maybe these robots can bring these science fiction movies to life. Let’s hope that these robots are less Terminator and more Wall-E (which I also haven’t seen, but I heard he’s cute).

Ackerman, E. (2011, May 23). Robots invent their own spoken language. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from MSN:

Neoaikon. (n.d.). Is a robot like a computer? Retrieved May 30, 2011, from

Schulz, R., Glover, A., Wyeth, G., & Wiles, J. (2011, May). Robots, Communication, and Language: An Overview of the Lingodroid Project. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from Austrailian Robots and Automation Association:

1 comment:

  1. Ok as cool as the lingodroids sound I cannot even comment on them because I am shocked and awed that you haven't seen science fiction movies.

    That's it. I'm officially lcoking the door to the nerdy kingdom until you start to partake in the sifi fun.
    You can't come and play with the nerds until you know the nerd foundation, and some of the fundamental portions of nerd foundation are : Star Wars, I, Robot, Terminator.

    But personally, I recommend you watch: The 5th Element and Demolition Man.

    Report back to me with your assessment of the films and myself, and other members of various geek coucils and nerd associations will meet and discuss whether or not you can join the club.
    You are at a sesrious disadadvantage, considering that many of us have been involved in the study of scifi films for the majority of our lives.
    I have confidence you can do it.
    If you want to be a geek, you gotta speak all the dialects!

    - The Nerdy Nurse