Robot Dogs Learn to Share Knowledge

Posted on July 10, 2006

The Engineer Online has an article about how Sony is developing algorithms that help robots learn to work together to solve problems. The technology allows robots to learn and share knowledge.
"What has been achieved at Sony shows that the technology gives the robot the ability to develop its own language with which to describe its environment and interact with other AIBOs. It sees a ball and it can tell another one where the ball is, if it's moving and what colour it is, and the other is capable of recognising it," Nolfi said.

The most important aspect is how it learns to communicate and interact. Whereas humans use the word 'ball' to refer to a ball, the AIBO dogs start from scratch to develop common agreement on a word to use to refer the ball. They also develop the language structures to express, for instance, that the ball is rolling to the left. The researchers achieved this through instilling their robots with a sense of 'curiosity.'

Initially programmed to recognise stimuli from their sensors, the AIBOs learnt to distinguish between objects and how to interact with them over the course of several hours or days. The curiosity system, or 'metabrain,' continually forced the AIBOs to look for new and more challenging tasks, and to give up on activities that did not appear to lead anywhere. This in turn led them to learn how to perform more complex tasks, an indication of an open-ended learning capability much like that of children.

Also like children, the AIBOs initially started babbling aimlessly until two or more settled on a sound to describe an object or aspect of their environment, gradually building a lexicon and grammatical rules through which to communicate.
It sounds like a big step forward in AI. It could have many uses from everything to computer games to household appliances. For example, multiple cleaning bots might work together to locate and clean a spill. You hear a lot about robots and soccer because of the annual Robocup. The goal of Robocup is stated as, "By the year 2050, develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world soccer champion team."
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