- A new robot can recognize the difference between a mirror
image of itself and another robot that looks just like it.
- This so-called mirror image cognition is based on artificial
nerve cell groups built into the robot's computer brain that give it the
ability to recognize itself and acknowledge others.
- The ground-breaking technology could eventually lead
to robots able to express emotions.
- Under development by Junichi Takeno and a team of researchers
at Meiji University in Japan, the robot represents a big step toward developing
self-aware robots and in understanding and modeling human self-consciousness.
- "In humans, consciousness is basically a state in
which the behavior of the self and another is understood," said Takeno.
- Humans learn behavior during cognition and conversely
learn to think while behaving, said Takeno.
- To mimic this dynamic, a robot needs a common area in
its neural network that is able to process information on both cognition
- Takeno and his colleagues built the robot with blue,
red or green LEDs connected to artificial neurons in the region that light
up when different information is being processed, based on the robot's
- "The innovative part is the independent nodes in
the hierarchical levels that can be linked and activated," said Thomas
Bock of the Technical University of Munich in Germany.
- For example, two red diodes illuminate when the robot
is performing behavior it considers its own, two green bulbs light up when
the robot acknowledges behavior being performed by the other.
- One blue LED flashes when the robot is both recognizing
behavior in another robot and imitating it.
- Imitation, said Takeno, is an act that requires both
seeing a behavior in another and instantly transferring it to oneself and
is the best evidence of consciousness.
- In one experiment, a robot representing the "self"
was paired with an identical robot representing the "other."
- When the self robot moved forward, stopped or backed
up, the other robot did the same. The pattern of neurons firing and the
subsequent flashes of blue light indicated that the self robot understood
that the other robot was imitating its behavior.
- In another experiment, the researchers placed the self
robot in front of a mirror.
- In this case, the self robot and the reflection (something
it could interpret as another robot) moved forward and back at the same
time. Although the blue lights fired, they did so less frequently than
in other experiments.
- In fact, 70 percent of the time, the robot understood
that the mirror image was itself. Takeno's goal is to reach 100 percent
in the coming year