Upercool-say! Aussie Lingodroids create own language

Researchers in Australia set a few robots loose on the linguistic landscape. The droids come up with random words to navigate, and even create, maps--with surprising accuracy.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects, and CNET's "Living off the Grid" series Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
Lingodroids agreed on randomly created words to represent location, distance, and direction with surprising accuracy. Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

I've always felt like Australians had their own language going on, what with all the Vegemite and Walkabouts and such, but now some Aussie researchers have set a few robots loose on the linguistic landscape. The result is that the Lingodroids have actually managed to create their own language. Using only their shared understanding of some apparently nonsense words, the Lingodroids more-or-less successfully communicated directions to each other and even created fairly accurate maps of their surroundings.

Here's the basic gist of how it works. The Lingodroids assign a randomly chosen syllable combination to name a specific location. Once they've agreed on the meaning of that initial word, they have the foundation for a language. From there the robots continue to make up and agree on words for different spots, directions, and approximate spatial distances (near, far, medium-far, and so on). The result is this exceedingly polite conversation in Lingodroidese:

In a paper (PDF) presented this month at a robotics conference in Shanghai, the researchers note that further study could lead to systems that can give directions without the aid of an existing map. They also note that an important next step could be giving the Lingodroids more flexibility in the concepts they can develop and communicate, giving them the ability to, essentially, say, "Hey, out of my way, bro! I'm running late and I've still got a ropi way to go to get to kuzo!"

(Via IEEE Spectrum)