Sony's robot dog learns to talk

Sony gives its robot pooch the power of speech

Researchers at Sony's Computer Science Laboratory in France have succeeded in creating a version of the company's robot dog AIBO capable of speaking.

The mechanised hound has been trained by Frederic Kaplan, an artificial intelligence expert at Sony, to recognise objects according to size, shape and colour and respond with a particular word. Kaplan hopes that eventually the robot creature will be able to interact with humans by speaking to them, giving it a considerable advantage over a traditional, organic dog.

The success of Sony's AIBO has spawned a legion of robotic imitators and Sony will undoubtedly be keen to lead the way in developing even more futuristic robot pets.

The dog's speech capabilities reside in software on a desktop computer connected to the AIBO's ordinary on-board computer, which controls normal behaviour. Kaplan says that the software is designed not to interfere with the existing robot but act as an additional cognitive layer.

In a document based on his experiments published recently, First experimentation of situated interactions with a Talking AIBO, Kaplan explains his intentions: ie that the research is aimed at developing robot pets that can talk to their owners.

"This experiment shows how a group of agents can build categories and words from scratch, to name simple coloured shapes on a whiteboard. With the Talking AIBO project, we are investigating how these techniques could be applied to human machine interactions and in particular to interactions to autonomous robots."

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