How to Speak a Language That Your Robot Will Understand

By Joseph Calamia | July 16, 2010 2:11 pm

robotBiwu English kokafo wapisi? That’s “Will English kick the bucket?” in a new language called ROILA (Robot Interaction Language). Perhaps it’s an apt question of my mother tongue. Under development by a group of researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, ROILA is a language made specifically for human-robot communication.

The language hopes to make up for speech-recognition software’s shortcomings by modifying human language to be more comprehensible for machines. Using an algorithm, it takes parts of natural and artificial languages and combines them to make sure that no two words sound too similar.

But a quick look at its grammar shows that ROILA goes a step further: when it comes to sentences, ROILA has cut out all the patap (English: the crazy). Irregular verbs? No. Most gendered words? No. Most punctuation? No. From the grammar website:

Every sentence will conclude with a full stop: “.” Question marks can be used in sentences where a question is asked. We do not support commas, apostrophes and quotation marks.

In a world where awkward computer-communication quirks easily turn into hip sentence stylings, as in @people #hashTagsAreUgly, one could see a language named with an acronym getting some real traction.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. As Popular Science duly notes, there have been similar computer-required human languages, like Palm Inc.’s Graffiti for hand-held devices to aid in stylus writing; most people I know aren’t making their Ts look like 7s. There is also safety in the fact that ROILA is not yet a spoken language.

Something should also be said for ROILA’s simplicity. “What color is the museum?” becoming “Biwu wekepo buse kulil bubas?” which back into English is “What color not new house?” has some real charm.

Related content:
Discoblog: How to Make a Hospital Stay Even More Dehumanizing: Robot Workers
Discoblog: Robot Model Struts the Catwalk in Japan
Discoblog: Tiny Jumping Robot Can Find Enemies, Scale Fences
Discoblog: Update: “Corpse-Eating Robot” Actually a Vegetarian

Image: flickr / a voir etc…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Lethal_Teapot

    Bit of a typo with “Robert Interaction Language”. (Would be funny if it were /actually/ Robert, though. Like everyone named Robert gets a special language for his interactions)

  • Joseph Calamia

    Thanks, Lethal_Teapot. Sorry about that. I wish I knew some Roberts to try it out on.

  • Leon

    So it’s not going to be Lojban?

  • Ytrog

    Leon, I thought the same: why not just Lojban?


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