A Unified Model of Speech and Tool Use Early Development


Some studies hypothesize a strong interdependence between speech and tool use development in the first two years of life. To help understand the underlying mechanisms, we present the first robotic model learning both speech and tool use from scratch. It focuses on the role of one important form of body babbling where exploration is directed towards self-generated goals in free play, combined with imitation learning of a contingent caregiver. We show that the mechanisms in this model allow a learner to progressively discover how to grab objects with the hand, how to use objects as tools to reach further objects, how to produce vocal sounds, and how to leverage these vocal sounds to use a caregiver as a social tool to retrieve objects. This model predicts that the grounded exploration of objects in a social interaction scenario should accelerate infant vocal learning of accurate sounds for these objects' names.

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