Meet NAO: The Robot That Passed the Self Awareness Test

By Vince Matthews

Scientists say the next step for robots is self-awareness. Basically, that means a robot actually realizes it’s a robot and knows its place in the world – as a robot. And scientists say once that happens, the way we interact with AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be drastically different.

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This robot has done something scientists didn’t think was possible for years…

Brace yourself: That could be happening very soon. A robot has passed the classic King’s Wise Men test – a self-awareness test.

Conducted by roboticists at the Ransselaer Polytechnic Institute, the test was adapted for three NAO robots. The test works like this: Robots were programmed to think they had been given a “dumbing pill” which kept them from talking. Then, all three were asked which one was still able to speak.

“I don’t know,” was the robots response, but only one robot said it. That robot heard its own voice and then said: “Sorry, I know now!”

To understand the feat, take the test…

King’s Wise Men Test

The King called the three wisest men in the country to his court to decide who would become his new advisor. He placed a hat on each of their heads. Each wise man could see all of the other hats, but none of them could see their own. Each hat was either white or blue. The king gave his word to the wise men that at least one of them was wearing a blue hat – in other words, there could be one, two or three blue hats, but not zero hats. The king also announced that the contest would be fair to all three men. The wise men were also forbidden to speak to each other. The king declared that whichever man stood up first and announced the color of his own hat would become his new advisor.

Team leader Selmer Bringsjord, who knew early in life he wanted to become a robot engineer, said that when robots pass tests like these they build up other abilities that will make them even more smart and useful.

“They try to find some interesting philosophical problem, then engineer a robot that can solve that problem,” said John Sullins, a philosopher of technology at Sonoma State University. “They’re barking up the right tree.”

Robots might still be a long way off from achieving “consciousness” as humans understand it, but robots’ simulation of it can be pretty powerful. Bringsjord will present a study on AI at the IEEE Ro-MAN2015 convention from August 31st to September 4th.

The Nao Robot
NAO isn’t your run-of-the-mill, store-bought robot. It retails for anywhere from $7,999 to $10,000. The robot, which was originally released in 2006, features Wi-Fi connectivity, touch sensors, visual tracking and is completely programmable. The NAO robot learns from its human interactions and constantly evolves its personality based on those interactions.

At a little over 2 feet tall, NAO can walk, talk, dance and even play soccer.

Build Your Future Now
At Digital Media Academy’s robot camps, kids and teens are building robots from Arduino and LEGO robot kits. Those same robots are competing in weekly robotics challenges and maybe someday might even be self-aware! Start creating the future at DMA today.