If you’ve always feared that robots would one day start talking to each other and plotting the demise of the human race, you can start getting a bit scared right now. The folks over at the University of Queensland have come up with a way to get robots to communicate with each other. Instead of giving them a fixed language i.e. something we already know like English, researchers have given the robots the ability to come up with their own words to describe the situation it is in.  The robots generate “words” from images of what they see with their onboard cameras.

Called Lingodroids, these robots are designed to work together in a team to map out the area they are in. Whenever a robot encounters a new area, they store its location and give it a name using a word generated from its own language. The location and name is then shared with other Lingodroids in the area. The robots then add those discovered areas onto their own maps and are able to identify it by name. The robots can even travel to that particular location if given the instructions to from other robots.

The single task they have to complete is to build a map of the world they are capable of travelling around on their three wheels. In order to do that they have a camera, range finder and sonar, and audio capabilities for capturing (microphone) and sharing (speaker) information.

Whenever a Lingodroid encounters some new area they map it using SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) which involves making it memorable using a grid, landmark, and topological combination that remains unique.

Once SLAM has been used to log an area the robot decides on a word to represent it made up from a list of sylabbles it has in memory. That word is then passed along to the other robots. All the robots then use that word to represent a specific place with reinforcement happening through game playing where one robot says a known word and the others navigate to it. That word is linked to the unique SLAM area marker formed by the Lingodroid such as the examples given below:


It’s very basic stuff in terms of communication, but it soon develops into a map with keywords the robots can say and the others can decide to travel to, or at least add to their own internal maps. It even extends to areas that cannot be accessed, and the robots can still give those areas a name.

The next stage is to increase the spatial intelligence of the robots by allowing them to learn and give directions to specific places. If that works we’ll have robots acting like a GPS, but in a language we don’t understand.

While right now, it’s only the ability to name locations, but we can imagine future where robots develop the language and come up with words for more functions or actions..!! Hope it will be soon :):)

for more: IEEE Spectrum