Once you’ve pulled yourself together, say hello to the latest (and dare we say almost cuddly?) paving stone on the path to our terrifying robot-ruled future: “epigenetic” robots that are being designed and built to “learn and develop like children.”
This particular study out of Indiana University conscripted both infants and child-like robots to explore how body posture is involved in learning the names of objects.1
Prior studies have explored the relationship between memory and object location, but this is the first to look specifically at the role of body position in memory and learning. Overall, the results of the study provide new evidence of the connection between thoughts, cognition, spatial relation and the physical body. This is really exciting as a further step towards understanding memory and language acquisition in tiny humans – well done team!
The study also showed that in comparing posture-based object name learning abilities of the child robots with those of human children, the robots learned at roughly the same rate as infants. Great – we’re sure that will work out well for everyone. And by “everyone,” we mean robots. And you thought it was going to be all Skynet and Terminators from here on out. No fate but what we make, people!
It’s not entirely clear to us why child-like robots needed to be a part of this study at all, other than to humble-brag that robot children are just as good at learning as human children. Perhaps it’s because you can literally poke around in a robot’s brain to dissect the learning process in ways that are generally frowned upon with human infants?
It turns out (distressingly) that robots built to behave and develop like infants have been learning “human speech in much the same way a human child learns” going back to at least 2012, while earlier incarnations (see also terrifying feature photo!) have been learning social skills like baby bosses since 2007.
But hey – it’s 2015 and if the creepy child robots that hit the scene circa 2007 are still just mucking around trying to string sentences together, perhaps everything will be a-ok after all. Granted, there are now non-childlike robots that can learn to cook and be taught tricks like a dog JUST BY WATCHING YOU. But keep in mind that your personal chances of shuffling off of this mortal coil due to child robot takeover are far smaller than any number of other forms of impending probable doom, like being taken out by a drone while on a roller-coaster!