Child's play: Iowa State robot learns with baby steps

The way that we figure things out as wee ankle-biters is usually referred to as procedural learning, or the process by which we interact with our surroundings in a pre-verbal manner. In other words, imagine a baby figuring out it enjoys to play with a rattle while it rolls on the floor and drools all over itself.

A group of researchers from the Developmental Robotics Laboratory at Iowa State University are hoping their own robot — which has yet to be named — could learn in much the same way, without all the drooling. Rather than pre-program it to perform a set of tasks, the team believes that robots need to experience the same kind of development that humans and animals do.

To that end, their 'bot is equipped with two long arms and a pair of webcam-looking eyes. It can hear and see, and learns to identify objects by picking them up and performing different tests, such as shaking or dropping them. Another trick it's figured out is learning if a surface is markable or not by writing on it, such as running a pencil over paper and then looking for lead marks.

Click Continue to see a video of Iowa State's robot in action.

Iowa State, via Gizmo Watch