- Programming a robot with the rules of English is difficult because we still do not know what all the rules are.
- To help robots sort out ambiguity, scientists build language machines by feeding them billions of words tagged for meaning and parts of speech.
- Researchers are using crowdsourcing on the Web to give robots a better sense of how human beings interpret and use language.
Sulla, the world’s first talking robot, was so adept at conversation—in four languages, no less—that a human visitor to the laboratory in which she was created refused to believe she was not a real person.
Alas, Sulla was not a real robot, either, but a character in Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R., which introduced the word “robot” to the lexicon. Ever since that debut, talking robots have seemed to be peeking around every corner, and not just in science fiction.