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Language is grounded in sensory-motor experience. Grounding connects concepts to the physical world enabling humans to acquire and use words and sentences in context. Currently most machines which process language are not grounded. Instead, semantic representations are abstract, pre-specified, and have meaning only when interpreted by humans. We are interested in developing computational systems which represent words, utterances, and underlying concepts in terms of sensory-motor experiences leading to richer levels of machine understanding. A key element of this work is the development of effective architectures for processing multisensory data. Inspired by theories of infant cognition, we present a computational model which learns words from untranscribed acoustic and video input. Channels of input derived from different sensors are integrated in an information-theoretic framework. Acquired words are represented in terms of associations between acoustic and visual sensory experience. The model has been implemented in a real-time robotic system which performs interactive language learning and understanding. Successful learning has also been demonstrated using infant-directed speech and images.
Date of Publication: June 2003