Robopocalypse alert: Robot may pass landmark self-awareness test

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

One of the stalwart technologies in sci-fi that we seem to be a long way from replicating is robots. From I, Robot to Terminator, we've always imagined these awesomely intelligent creatures, but we still haven't figured out how to make them. Well, folks, the robopocalypse just got one step closer.

The BBC is reporting that the Yale University robot Nico has "learned" to recognize itself in a mirror, which is a classic hurdle toward self-awareness. So, not exactly Skynet, but it's still a big deal.

The 'bot is expected to formally take the test in the coming months, while the researchers' goal is to eventually have Nico be able to interpret objects around it via the mirror—similar to how a (human) driver uses a rearview mirror.

Here's how it works: Humans (over 18 months old) can obviously recognize themselves in a mirror, while some animals, such as primates and dolphins, can also comprehend the difference. In animals, the test works by placing a mark on the subject's face, then judging the animal's reaction to see if they feel for it on their own face after seeing it on their reflection.

Ph.D. student Justin Hart, who is leading the project, told the BBC he hopes Nico can set some new robo-awareness benchmarks:

"It is a spatial reasoning task for the robot to understand that its arm is on it not on the other side of the mirror ... This is an important step but it is not the endgame of artificial intelligence, it is just a step along the way."

What do you think? Is this the first step toward the robopocalypse?

(Via BBC)