New Scientist reports that researchers at Plymouth University in the U.K. have created a pair of virtual robots that can teach each other words by simply demonstrating various tasks and actions (sound familiar?
). The bots start out with one performing simple functions like bending an elbow which the other one copies, then repeating the action while also describing it, causing the student bot to pick up the meaning of the words. The teacher then uses the newly formed vocabulary to gradually convey more and more complex actions, which the student acts out. If you're worried about the little buggers getting a little too
smart, you'll be pleased to know that they currently top out at a vocabulary of about 100 words and are, of course, virtual. However, the researchers do eventually see the technology being put to use in real robots in the future, possibly even teaching us humans a few tricks.