That’s one small wave for an adorable robot, but potentially a giant one for robotkind.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor Selmer Bringsjord has conducted a self-awareness experiment with a commercially-available Nao robot that he says proves that the robot has the faintest glimmer of self-awareness.
The test, which is a bit complicated, works like this: Bringsjord programmed three robots to think that two of them had been given a special “dumbing pill” that would not allow them to speak. Their task was to identify which robots received the pill. When the Nao robot on the right tried to speak, it heard its voice, and its voice alone. That’s when it waved its hand and said: “I know now. I was able to prove that I was not given a dumbing pill.”
The test, according to Bringsjord, required the robot to recognize the sound of its own voice, and then logically conclude that it had not received the dumbing pill. Modeled on a classic philosophical problem called “The King’s Wise Men,” the test addresses a very tiny slice of self-awareness—it’s a long way from Ultron, the criminally insane sentient robot from The Avengers.
Still, it’s a step toward self-aware robots, and Bringsjord is conducting research funded by the US Navy that seeks to teach robots the difference between right and wrong.
Here’s the video in full: