Why do some words evolve rapidly through time whilst others stay the same? Mark Pagel and Quentin Atkinson explain that the frequency with which words are used affects how quickly they evolve. They find that similar relationships exist across all Indo-European languages.
Can a robot be curious? How can a robot learn new tricks by itself and continuously during its lifetime? What mechanisms explain open-ended cognitive development? How can children development inspire robot builders, and how robotic models can be useful to developmental psychology? These are the questions that we study in the developmental robotics group at Sony CSL Paris....
The Maido and Gurby Experiment is a particular setup showing how autonomous creatures can coordinate socially to build a shared repertoire of syllables. There are both a scientific and a pedagogical side in this experiment. Indeed, from a scientific point of view, it is an implementation of the imitation game developed by Bart de Boer in his work on the evolution of vowel systems. Here, the imitation game is extended to syllables and to completely autonomous creatures. Agents coordinate without external supervisors to play the imitation game, i.e. to agree when to play, who will play the speaker and who will play the hearer, to perform robust turn taking, ... Agents communicate here through loudspeakers and microphones, and so their social coordination has to be robust enough to overcome the possible (human speech) sounds coming from their environment.
Savage-Rumbaugh asks whether uniquely human traits, and other animals' behaviors, are hardwired by species. Then she rolls a video that makes you think: maybe not. The bonobo apes she works with understand spoken English. One follows her instructions to take a cigarette lighter from her pocket and use it to start a fire. Bonobos are shown making tools, drawing symbols to communicate, and playing Pac-Man -- all tasks learned just by watching. Maybe it's not always biology that causes a species to act as it does, she suggests. Maybe it's cultural exposure to how things are done.
When and how did human beings begin communicating with one another? This segment from Evolution: ``The Mind's Big Bang,'' explores the emergence of language. In the 1980s, deaf Nicaraguan children brought together in Managua generated a new sign language, complete with syntax. For the first time in history, scholars witnessed the birth of a language, suggesting a linguistic 'bioprogram.' Featured participants: Maria Noname and Judy Kegl.
The Talking Heads experiment, developed with Luc Steels and collaborators in Sony CSL Paris and the VUB AI lab in Brussels, studied the evolution of a shared lexicon in a population of embodied software agents. The agents developed their vocabulary by observing a scene through digital cameras and communicating about what they habe seen together. To add an extra level of complexity to their task, agents were able to move freely between different computer installations located in different parts of the world. Members of the public were able to influence the course of the experiment by logging on to the Talking Heads website to create and teach their own agents.