‘Lingodroid’ robots invent language to chat

May 25th, 2011 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 25 (IANS) The ‘Lingodroids’ are a pair of mobile robots that communicate by developing their own words for places, and relationships between places, based on distance and direction.

The language sounds like a sequence of phone tones, which are easy for the robots to produce and hear in a noisy office environment, before being translated into syllables to make it easy for humans to recognise them.

The pair was designed and developed by University of Queensland (UQ) postdoctoral fellow Ruth Schulz and her colleagues.

The robots consist of a mobile platform which is fitted with a camera, laser range finder, sonar for mapping and obstacle avoidance, and a microphone and speakers for audible communication with each other.

“If they encounter an area that has not yet been named, one will invent a word, such as ‘kuzo’, choosing a random combination of syllables, which it is then able to communicate to other robots it meets, thus defining the name of the place,” she said, according to a Queensland statement.

“These words are known as ‘toponyms’ (topo meaning place and nym meaning name).The robots then start to play how-far and which-direction games, which enable them to develop relationship words (like English prepositions).”

The resulting language consists of location, distance and direction words, enabling the robots to refer to new places based on their relationship to known locations.

“These languages are very powerful - they are known as ‘generative’ languages because they enable the robots to refer to places they haven’t been to or even places that they imagine beyond the edges of their explored world,” Schulz said.

Their understanding of the new language was tested using games in which two robots attempted to meet at a particular toponym, or place name.

If one robot told the other “jaya”, they would independently navigate to where they thought “jaya” was. When both robots arrived at the same location, the concept “jaya” was consistent between the robots.

Schulz and her colleagues presented their research at the International Conference on
Robotics and Automation in Shanghai early this month.

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