Instead of being pre-programmed with experiential knowledge, a robot named Nico is learning the relationships of its grippers and sensors, space and environment.
Nico may be slowly approaching self-awareness, and its programmers are utilizing an even better test than the Turing Test. The ‘Mirror Test‘, the same one that we humans believe separates us (as well as elephants, magpies, orcas, dolphins and the great apes) from other tested species, by showing that we can both use the mirror as a tool to explore a reflected environment, and recognize that our reflections are indeed of ourselves.
Via Kurzweil AI:
Using knowledge that it has learned about itself, Nico is able to use a mirror as an instrument for spatial reasoning, allowing it to accurately determine where objects are located in space based on their reflections, rather than naively believing them to exist behind the mirror.
Nico’s programmer, roboticist Justin Hart, a member of the Social Robotics Lab, focuses his thesis research primarily on “robots autonomously learning about their bodies and senses,” but he also explores human-robot interaction, “including projects on social presence, attributions of intentionality, and people’s perception of robots.”
Recently, the lab (along with MIT, Stanford, and USC) won a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create “socially assistive” robots that can serve as companions for children with special needs. These robots will help with everything from cognitive skills to getting the right amount of exercise.
Hart’s specific goal in this program: enable Nico to interact with its environment by learning about itself, and using this self-model, to reason about tasks — mainly ones for humans.
Nico hasn’t passed every part of the Mirror Test yet, such as recognizing when a difference has been made to itself. But this is still a groundbreaking achievement towards granting robots higher-level cognition and consciousness (whatever that is).