Robots are the modern-day version of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Writers and filmmakers have been fascinated by the idea of machines rising up against us for decades, long before the technology to create intelligent robots was even available.
Now, in a step toward the dystopian future that’s fueled a thousand science fiction films, a pair of Australian robots called “Lingodroids” have been developing their own language. The two robots, which use wheels to move around and sonar to perceive the world around them, are programmed to play games in the which the object is to find one another. This has allowed them to develop a shared vocabulary, which they use to describe their current location.
As project director Ruth Schulz explained to Reuters, at the moment, their vocabulary is quite limited:
“In their current state all they can talk about is spatial concepts, which I think is pretty cool as a starting point. But the important part is that they are forming these concepts, they are starting to really understand what words mean and this is actually all up to the robots themselves.”
Sure, now all they can talk about it spatial concepts. But how long until they develop the linguistic capability to begin conspiring against us?
Schulz insists that the ultimate goal of the project is to create more helpful robotic domestic servants, more like Judy from the Jetsons than the Terminator. Once robots develop the capacity to truly understand and use language, it should be easy to teach them our own languages. According to Schulz,
“The long term vision is robots that you can use in a domestic environment, a sort of you know, real people interacting with real robots in a natural way. You don’t want to be pressing buttons to communicate with your robot in the home that you just want to clean your kitchen. If you want it to clean your kitchen, you just have to say, ‘can you please clean my kitchen.'”