Spatial Language for Mobile Robots: The Formation and Generative Grounding of Toponyms

Ms Ruth Schulz (2008). Spatial Language for Mobile Robots: The Formation and Generative Grounding of Toponyms PhD Thesis, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ms Ruth Schulz
Thesis Title Spatial Language for Mobile Robots: The Formation and Generative Grounding of Toponyms
School, Centre or Institute School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Janet Wiles
Dr Gordon Wyeth
Total pages 200
Total colour pages 59
Total black and white pages 141
Subjects 290000 Engineering and Technology
Formatted abstract
For robots to interact with each other and humans in a human environment, it is important for them
to be able to use language meaningfully in practical applications. Grounding connects words and
sentences with their meanings and is a necessary foundation for the meaningful usage of language.
Combining simple concepts provides a way to label other simple concepts. The process of forming
a simple concept from a combination of concepts is termed generative grounding in this thesis.
To understand how language may be used meaningfully in practical applications, the nature of
language and the concepts on which language is built must be understood. Concepts of space and
time are among those that are directly experienced and directly grounded. In particular, space is
used to form other concepts with spatial metaphors used to describe mood, energy, emotion,
personal attributes, and time.
This thesis addresses the question of how robots can form spatial languages. The literature
review in Chapters 2 and 3 covers the diverse fields that this thesis builds on, from linguistics,
computer science, psychology, neurology, and robotics. The literature review explores the language
features that need to be addressed if language evolution and acquisition are to be understood, and
the features of space and spatial language that make the domain appropriate for investigating the
grounding and generative grounding of concepts.
The studies presented investigated grounding spatial language in mobile robots that had
constructed maps to represent their world. The pilot studies investigated the underlying spatial
representations and methods to produce and comprehend language. The experience map, a
representation similar to a cognitive map of the world, provided the most appropriate representation
for forming a spatial language.
A key question is what impact interactions between agents have on the languages. For the two
major studies described in this thesis, agents interacted through language games and the experience
map provided the base representation for concepts formation. A new way to associate concept
elements and words was developed: the distributed lexicon table. Each study had three sections: an
investigation into the experimental design of the language games in a simulation world based on a
grid, the implementation of the language games in simulated robots, and the implementation of
language games in the richer and less predictable real world.
The first study investigated spatial concept formation through collective experience and agent
interactions as they explored their environment and played ‘where are we’ games. Games were
played when the agents were within hearing distance, with the shared attention defined by beingnear each other. After playing many language games, the agents successfully formed a toponymic
language that labelled all visited locations.
The second study addressed the question of whether robots can form concepts for spatial
relationships. Agents played ‘where is there’ language games in addition to ‘where are we’
language games. In ‘where is there’ games, they referred to locations other than the current location.
Shared attention was being near each other and the same perspective was achieved when an
orientation location was named. A third target location was specified by name, direction, and
distance. Agents formed a comprehensive spatial language of directions and distances that were
combined to specify other locations in their world.
In summary, a computational language model for mobile robots was successfully developed, in
which the robots formed spatial concepts that were associated with words through interactions with
other agents. The features that made spatial concept formation easy included an appropriate concept
representation, the distributed lexicon table with methods to produce and comprehend words, and
simple interactions from which the language emerged. With the addition of generative interactions,
the agents extended languages in which known locations were labelled to languages in which
external locations were labelled. The result was robots that formed nouns (place names) and simple
prepositions (direction and distance terms).
The major conclusions of this thesis are that generative grounding for spatial concepts is
possible and that representations, methods, and social interactions influence the languages that
form. The meaningful usage of language in practical applications therefore requires appropriate
representations, interactions, and methods for grounding. This thesis has shown that rather than the
directly perceivable world, it is interactions building on innate abilities that influence the final
structure of spatial languages.
Keyword language, representation, game, robot, agent, spatial, concepts, words, grounding, generative
Additional Notes Colour pages: 45, 46, 47, 48, 69, 70, 83, 86, 88, 92, 93, 98, 99, 105, 107, 108, 115, 116, 118, 119, 121, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 175, 176, 177

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Created: Thu, 27 Nov 2008, 20:32:19 EST by Ms Ruth Schulz on behalf of Library - Information Access Service