In a clip from the BBC Horizon documentary, “The Hunt for AI”, two robots learn how to move their own bodies by themselves, and go on to teaching each other their own language. Scientists at the Neurorobotics Research Laboratory believe that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by allowing machines to develop and evolve like young children do. The focus of the research project is to explore how “complex grammatical systems and behaviors can emerge in populations of robotic agents.”

Teaching Robots to Learn

Experiments play out like a game where a teacher and observer interact to build a shared vocabulary from the ground up.

Dr. Luc Steels of the NRL explains how one of the robots is attempting to communicate its chosen word for a specific gesture. The “words” they invent begin as random sounds given to a specific action, object, or event. That coupling must then be successfully conveyed to a partner, which involves the observer guessing what the teacher meant. Whenever the observer correctly guesses the word’s definition, it enters into a shared vocabulary that can be used to study further complexities like grammar and tense (do this, then that).

If the project is a success, not only will robots be able to teach one another new words, but it will be possible for people to teach robots words in the same way we do infants.  And the grammatical problems that often stump computers in Turing tests may be solved.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here