In news of the advancing robot apocalypse, right up there with teaching robots to feel shame and fear, we now have a robot who can pass the mirror test.
For those not familiar with cheesy ’70s scientific documentaries, the mirror test is simple. Put a mirror in front of an animal, and see whether it thinks it’s another creature or realizes that it’s seeing its own image. In theory this demonstrates self-awareness.
In reality it’s not that great of a test. But who doesn’t want to put a mirror in front of a bird to see how it reacts? OK, everybody.
Nonetheless, it’s really the only simple test of self-awareness we’ve got. Hence, Nico has been studying hard to pass it.
Nico, a robot at Yale, is trying to pass the mirror test not just because he wants to finally put Connecticut out of its misery, but also to improve a robot’s prioperception.
One of the useful tools that humans have and robots generally don’t is the ability to know where all our parts are at a given point in time. Robots don’t really have the tools we do for that (i.e. nerves), so they need to develop other systems.
Part of that is having a robot develop a full 3D understanding of itself and the ability to notice when something is different in a mirror. The self-awareness is just a nice bonus and we’re sure won’t be used to create more convincing sexbots. At all.
image courtesy Yale University