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Cyclops robot Myon to peer into language origins

Engineers in Berlin are building a one-eyed humanoid robot designed to mimic the way children learn about language and their environment.

A CG image of Myon, designed to be the size of an 8-year-old.
A CG image of Myon, designed to be the size of an 8-year-old. Frackenpohl Poulheim

Can robots tell us about our distant past? German researchers think they can help us understand how we evolved language skills. Engineers at the Neurorobotics Research Laboratory at Humboldt University in Berlin are creating humanoids that will be able to form their own language to communicate.

Crafted by industrial design firm Frackenpohl Poulheim and manufactured with the help of plastics company Bayer MaterialScience, Myon is part of a European project called Artificial Language Evolution on Autonomous Robots, or ALEAR.

The project aims to get robots to "self-organize rich conceptual frameworks and communication systems with similar features as those found in human languages." (See the engineers and designers speaking about Myon here.)

Myon is designed to be about the height of an 8-year-old (4 feet); weighs 33 pounds; and has nearly 200 sensors, as well as a touch-panel screen embedded in its reinforced polycarbonate shell. Unlike most 8-year-olds, Myon only has one eye.

Apparently, its limbs, head, and torso have individual power supplies, processors, and neural networks so each can operate independently. We're not sure how this is relevant to language acquisition, but watching Myon push a harness around in circles (see the vid below from the DMY International Design Festival Berlin 2010) reminds us of Conan pushing the Wheel of Pain.

Maybe the idea is to start Myon as a barbarian and see if grunts can evolve into practical phrases about everyday objects, like "Your clothes--give them to me."

(Via Plastic Pals)