Children are great! They’re wonderful, tiny little human beings, and I’m so very glad that there are other people out there willing to birth and raise them, because if I were to try, things would get real hairy, real fast.
If, however, that ol’ hormonal imperative kicks in, I know I have a backup in this fella here, an adorable, Uncanny -Valley-dwelling humanoid robot-child, that has, according to Wired, successfully learned to communicate via the same methods used by human babies.
The little guy — named DeeChee — is an iCub, a metre-tall, open-source robot used by researchers to delve into the mysteries of human cognition and A.I. The iCub (“Cub” standing for Cognitive Universal Body) is designed to mimic the physicality of human learning as much as possible, in order to test the hypothesis that bodily experience of the world around us has an important role in learning and brain development.
Until now, this has meant teaching iCubs to crawl, shoot arrows (!), grab and hold small objects, and use facial expressions. According to a Public Library of Science One-published study, DeeChee has been taught the names of simple shapes and colours by regular-person volunteers. Caroline Lyons of the University of Hertfordshire, leader of the study, described the robot’s basic M.O.: “As humans talk, DeeChee tracks the number of times different syllables are used. It then uses the more common sounds to recognize words, which it can then speak.”
These experiments are to aid in quantifying exactly when a human baby’s vocalizations transition from babbling to basic language, “drawing statistical links between sound frequencies and the robot’s performance that might eventually inform research on human learning.”
Now, this robo-kid is one I wouldn’t mind having around the house — and all in the name of science!