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European Scientists Will Teach Robot to Speak

February 29, 2008

Scientists at University of Plymouth will soon begin a 4-year study to determine if they can teach a 3 ft. baby robot named iCub how to talk. 

The scientists believe the research could someday lead to the development of humanoid robots that think, learn and speak.

The first of its kind project will receive input from language development personnel who are experts in how parents teach children to talk.

Among the instructional tools implemented to teach the robot will be activities such as inserting objects of various shapes into corresponding holes in a box and stacking nested cups and wooden blocks.  The robot will also be asked to name objects and actions so that it acquires basic phrases such as “robot puts stick on cube”.

The consortium, led by the University of Plymouth, beat competition from 31 others to win a $9M grant for the Italk  (Integration and Transfer of Action and Language Knowledge) in Robots project.  Partners in the project include University of Hertfordshire and others across Europe.

The iCub will arrive at the college next year.

Angelo Cangelosi, Professor in Artificial Intelligence told BBC News, “The outcome of the research will define the scientific and technological requirements for the design of humanoid robots able to develop complex behavioral, thinking and communication skills through individual and social learning.”

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