Language Matters: Babbling Robots

From nonsense babbling to first words to full sentences, the process of a baby learning a language is fascinating to watch.

Watching a robot go through those same stages while learning a language — that’s revolutionary.

Researchers have created a humanoid robot — designed to look like a baby — that can learn language like a human infant.

It’s important that the robot be human-shaped.  Human interaction is necessary to learn language, and a humanoid robot will evoke the proper response in its human teacher, while a computer screen would not.

Another reason for the importance of a human-shaped robot is that some researchers think that some brain functions are shaped by the bodies that the brains are in.  This means that a brain in a jar would actually think differently than a brain in a body.

Don’t get too excited, though.  The robot can’t think like a baby can — it is only capable of learning basic words.  A robot with a consciousness — one that can think and make decisions for itself — is still worlds away.

How do you think people learn language?  Could a robot ever truly replicate the process?

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