Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Baby Meets Big Brother For Science

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the all-about-learning dept.

188

dylanduck writes "A baby is to be monitored by a network of microphones and video cameras for 14 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an effort to unravel the seemingly miraculous process by which children acquire language. I guess that's what happens when your pop works at MIT's Media Lab. Thankfully his parents can switch off the surveillance for 'private' moments and delete short scenes. All the footage is being classified by algorithms."

cancel ×

188 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

The mom... (5, Funny)

crazyjeremy (857410) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343140)

Meanwhile, the baby's mother (a hot Brazillian model) is not told about the cameras. The baby's father (the rich MIT geek) is clueless why his buddies picked HIS house to do the experiment.

Re:The mom... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343248)

Also, they were not told that the switching off for private moments only affects the video tape, not the cams themselves ...

Re:The mom... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343671)

That was a GE appliance commercial, right?

Wait this sounds familiar (4, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343145)

I wonder if the baby's name is Truman [imdb.com] ?

Re:Wait this sounds familiar (0)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343180)

Great minds think alike. :-)

Sounds like the Monroe Box. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343195)

Monroe: It's a special isolation chamber. The subject pulls levers to receive food and water. The floor can become electrified, and showers of icy water randomly fall on the subject. I call it... The Monroe Box!

Grampa: Uh huh. Sounds interesting. How much will it cost to build?

Monroe: Oh, that's the beauty part! It's already built! I need the money to buy a baby to raise in the box until the age of thirty.

Grampa: What are you trying to prove?

Monroe: Well, my theory is that the subject will be socially maladjusted and will harbor a deep resentment towards me.

Grampa: Mm. Interesting.

Re:Wait this sounds familiar (2, Funny)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343231)

Next time, if it's a girl they could name it Jenni [wikipedia.org] .

Wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343715)

Next time, if it's a girl they could name it Jenni.

Wait a second....call it Jenni, or call her Jenni. There is a very big difference!

Re:Wait this sounds even more familiar! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343326)

I wonder if the baby's name is Truman [imdb.com]?

The real interesting part is if Big Brother later decides that he needs to extend the monitoring due to !insert Big Brother Logic here! which would actually make it like The Truman Show in real life.

FTA: If successful, Roy says the project could lead to better strategies for diagnosing and treating language disorders. It could even spawn computer programs that can learn to how to speak for themselves, he adds.

Uh huh, this could be edging close to the The Matrix [imdb.com] also...

Re:Wait this sounds familiar (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343538)

Beaten to the punch... I so wanted to use that...

Truman! (0, Redundant)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343146)

Will they also instill a fear of water into the baby so he doesn't want to leave his island?

Re:Truman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343321)

You're special. You have a very special purpose in life. You've been chosen. The Island awaits you.

To think I actually just watched that movie this weekend for the first time.

Though today's world it would be more like..

You're special. You have a very special purpose in life. You've been chosen. A Coke Cola awaits you. A Sony awaits you. A Nike Awaits you. A Fox Network Awaits you. A Mcdonalds awaits you. etc etc... pause, repeat.

Videos (3, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343150)

I couldn't get the MOV files to work, something about a codec I was missing. The AVIs worked fine though.

If you can't see them, there are 9 fish eye cameras mounted at certain points of the house and a day passes in 30 seconds (a la National Geographic plant blooming or Requiem for a Dream old lady on crack).

Each camera seems to have a round piece of paper ready to flip up and down to cover it (possibly via light switch in the room/area) should the family choose it to be necessary.

I think this is a wonderful and innovative idea, my only concern resides in the child's rights.
Roy is aware that the project raises ethical issues. But ultimately he thinks he may be providing his son with an incredible gift. "He might be the first person to have a memory that goes back to birth," he says.
I'm going to say I don't agree with even releasing these short clips to the public. I believe that this footage should be collected, protected & anonymity of the child enforced until the child is 18--at which point they will be capable of releasing the footage under whatever license (GPL even, lol) they deem appropriate. I understand that the parents have full custody, I only hope this child is in no way taken advantage of like so many prodigious children are by their parents.

Re:Videos (1)

jevvim (826181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343220)

I believe that this footage should be collected, protected & anonymity of the child enforced until the child is 18

Care to enforce that rule with America's Funniest Home Videos as well?

Final Cut (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343635)

Agreed to a point. This seems pretty harmless. It's a little more personal than baby photos and home videos since it's constant, but probably no more exciting to anyone. It doesn't sound like there is any intent to keep recording data beyond the age of 2 or 3 anyways.

This is going to yield a huge dataset! I imagine a couple CS majors could make a good senior project out of writing the sorting algorithms. I'd be kind of interesting to see a follow-up on how they're going to go about that. The kind of data analysis I typically do, even when I'm looking at a few hundred megs of data, I can typically sort down to peak or rate values very quickly with simple software. Even high energy physics research that can generate terrabytes of data per experiment I suspect can be broken down the same way with a decent amount of raw processing power. This research, however, will be sifting through a huge set of similar data and looking for subtle effects.

The overall experiment reminds me much more of The Final Cut [imdb.com] than The Truman Show like others have suggested. Obviously that movie was far more personal in its intrusion, but it was basically about privacy versus (somewhat public) memory. The writers obviously recognized the scale of the data generated, too. They introduced a special computer called a Guillotine that seperated a persons life into clips by category.

Re:Videos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343255)

Prodigious? You mean his ability to produce shit?

Re:Videos (1)

$1uck (710826) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343333)

I just figured he was trying to be redundant.

Re:Videos (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343273)


What makes you think an 18 year old will make a decision about the video they won't regret when they are older? Given that, what's the difference between parents making that decision for data in their own house?

Besides, 18 years of age is an arbitrary amount of elapsed life. Why not 16? Or 30? Can the parents skirt the issue by having signs posted around the house saying "video and audio of this room is recorded between xam and ypm."? You don't have copyrights to video of yourself in public when this type of notice is up.

Personally, I'd rather this data be published since it's collected for understanding humans in general. Also, I think it would have been nice to have seen the parts of my childhood I cannot recall.

They should consider selling this to the public once the data requirements are met by a cheap PC.

Re:Videos (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343295)

18 is the point of legal majority, it's as reasonable as any given date. The real issue is that as a child in America (or probably just about anywhere) you have basically no rights until majority.

Re:Videos (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343317)

What makes you think an 18 year old will make a decision about the video they won't regret when they are older?

Because as the owner of his own image, the baby can decide when he's older that he made a mistake at 18 and opt to release it to the public.

If the father makes it public now, and the child decides at either 18 or 80 that he does not want this stuff out there -- well, it's too late now, isn't it?

Think of it this way: will this guy ever have a shot at a career in politics?

Re:Videos (2, Interesting)

955301 (209856) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343463)

And if the 18 year old releases it, but upon turning 26 finds out an insurance company turned him down because something in the video indicated a health issue predisposing him to cancer?

the 18 year old can still have regrets later...

Re:Videos (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343545)

I see... I was reading your comment the other way around. That's true, but then at least it would be his mistake, instead of someone else's that he has to live with.

Who cares about the privacy of an infant? (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343465)

I don't really see how this impacts the child at all. He/she is zero years old - what possible privacy concerns can you have at that point?

Re:Who cares about the privacy of an infant? (2, Insightful)

jerkmonster (944940) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343567)

The point is that, though the infant may not be able to "say" anything in its defense, the kid or adult that eventually emerges from said infant may feel weird about its early childhood having been exposed to the world. A society's supposed to take care of those who can't take care of themselves, not take advantage of them.

Re:Who cares about the privacy of an infant? (2, Insightful)

bunions (970377) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343790)

The kid or adult that eventually emerges from said infant may feel weird about pretty much any choice the parents make for him/her. Also, "being released to the world" makes it sound like they're showing it on Fox. It's not even clear to me from the article that humans will watch significant chunks of it.

I can see how this argument can be made for a 3 or 5 year-old, since they are starting to have personality and make their own choices. But simply observing infants is pretty much all the same - they sleep, poop and eat.
What's to be embarassed about? "Oh no, the world now knows I was an infant at some point in time and could not control my bowels, I am mortified!"

I'm not really sure how this is 'taking advantage' of the baby, because I don't see how it harms him/her.

Re:Videos (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343612)

I'll admit that the public nature of the child's life is a little troubling for me as well, but I'm hard put to say why. Children don't even really have awareness of themselves as discrete entities in the world until they're several months old, so it's difficult to imagine what kind of privacy concerns the kid could have. I mean, other than, "Oh my god, my future (boy|girl)friend saw pictures of me pooping when I was six months old?!?"

As for memory going back to birth: I find that pretty unlikely. There's some evidence popping up that development of language and sense of self is a necessary catalyst to the formation of long term memories (don't have a reference handy, unfortunately). Just because I see pictures of me as an infant doesn't mean that I'll be able to say, "Oh yeah. I rembember that day. I had wicked diaper rash that day."

Re:Videos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343792)

Something tells me that you would fully support the mothers right to kill her child before her child was born, am I correct?

Why is killing child = ok but taping child = bad?

This has been done before. (0, Redundant)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343154)

Details are here [imdb.com] .

Re:This has been done before. (1)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343291)

Geez, one freaking minute and I'm redundant.

Re:This has been done before. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343611)

"Redundant moderation is the price which Nature exacts for pursuing the low hanging fruit of Internet discussion."

-Lao Tze, c. 500 BC

Baby rejoice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343156)

2008 will be a leapyear

Baby's first words (4, Funny)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343159)

Suprisingly, the Baby's first words mimick the sounds made by the recording equipment:

"beep"
"zzzzZZZZZZzzz"
"click click click click"

Re:Baby's first words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343609)

Score 6: Friggin' Funny! *blip*

Will parents delete first swear word? (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343161)

Just curious. Most people would.

Re:Will parents delete first swear word? (4, Funny)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343262)

Just wait until some pranksters teach the kid to say "Caltech."

Re:Will parents delete first swear word? (1)

gkhan1 (886823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343392)

Ofcourse they wont! They are scientists, not members of some absolutist moral cult! Especially when it comes to language, such things are crucial to document if one is to get a complete picture of the development of the child.

This question is like (1)

iogan (943605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343184)

the Linux / Windows debate of linguistics. Do we have a language gene, or is the exposure we get to language somehow able to give us all the clues we need to have more or less perfect grammar by the age of about three?

I really wish we could solve this once and for all and just move on, hopefully this can help.
(cue the jokes about how some slashdotters have the grammar skills of a three-year-old etc).

Re:This question is like (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343282)

Indeed. There's definitly no reason to bash three year olds!

Think of the children!

Re:This question is like (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343285)

Humans will naturally develop communication, even without being taught how. For instance there are examples of groups of deaf children developing sign language on their own, etc. I do remember hearing that there is a time frame in which learning how to communicate has to be accomplished in. There were case studies of "feral" children who basically raised themselves from a very young age with no social human contact. After a certain age, they can be trained to become more civilized, but nobody has as of yet found progress in teaching any sort of language communication skills. The word "trained" in the above sentence was intentional, as they can not be "taught" things like most children would be, the process is much more similar to classical pavlovian reinforcement.

Feral Kidlets (1)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343606)

Nix. Numerous 'feral children' have acquired (limited) language skills (most famously, Genie) - they provide an extremely poor study group for looking at language and social skills learning because a. they may have been abandoned because they were (or were percieved to be) subnormal, b. they tend to be significantly traumatised, either simply by circumstances, or by abuse (again, Genie). c. Case studies are a bugger.

(Feral children covers a broad spectrum - we are not just talking about 'raised by wolves' here)

Regarding the main topic - this has characteristics uncomfortably like the Forbidden Experiment (bring up a child in a totally controlled, isolated environment - see what happens), and making the footage publically available worries me - did they cut a deal with Fox for the funding?

Re:This question is like (1)

Zaphod2016 (971897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343573)

...to have more or less perfect grammar by the age of about three

If three year olds have more or less perfect grammar by age 3, what the hell happens to adults? Seriously, is it something in the drinking water?

Re:This question is like (1)

swimmar132 (302744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343724)

Adults do have perfect grammar. Maybe not according to language eggheads, but language is defined by common usage (and there are many dialects of English), not by eggheads.

Re:This question is like (1)

Zaphod2016 (971897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343757)

Bad joke gone worse. No offense intended =)

I bet this kid's prom night... (0)

PhineusJWhoopee (926130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343202)

...is going to be hell.

ed

Broca's Area (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343214)

I'm surprised that they aren't taking weekly or monthly magnetic resonance images (MRI's) of the child's brain to track the growth of Broca's Area [wikipedia.org] , a region of the brain long believed to control and develop speech.

It was this that Carl Sagan wrote of in Broca's Brain when he speculated on our ability to speak and communicate adeptly and sets us apart from animals.

I'd like to see this invetsigated further.

Re:Broca's Area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343342)

Cause MRIs are hot, very loud (like airplane takeoff kind of loud), and getting a child to sit still in one is unrealistic and possibly dangerous?

Footage Classifications (5, Funny)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343235)


4% Pooping
26% Fussiness
8% Crying
18% Eating
21% Drooling
22% Peek a Boo
1% Language Acquisition

Re:Footage Classifications (1)

cutedinochick (954310) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343268)

Only 4% pooping and 8% eating? Maybe kids aren't as bad as I thought...

Re:Footage Classifications (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343618)

4% = 72 minutes of pooping per day. I'd say that bad.

Re:Footage Classifications (1)

boingo82 (932244) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343826)

Ah, you didn't notice that "0% sleeping" wasn't listed.

Re:Footage Classifications (5, Funny)

Pastis (145655) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343344)

It's spelled

22% Pick a Boob

Re:Footage Classifications (2, Insightful)

OctoberSky (888619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343825)

I thought Pick a Boob fell under the 18% for eating?

Re:Footage Classifications (4, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343412)

Hey, you plagiarized my job description!

I call it... The Monroe Box! (1, Redundant)

Kenja (541830) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343246)

Monroe: It's a special isolation chamber. The subject pulls levers to receive food and water. The floor can become electrified, and showers of icy water randomly fall on the subject. I call it... The Monroe Box!
Grampa: Uh huh. Sounds interesting. How much will it cost to build?
Monroe: Oh, that's the beauty part! It's already built! I need the money to buy a baby to raise in the box until the age of thirty.
Grampa: What are you trying to prove?
Monroe: Well, my theory is that the subject will be socially maladjusted and will harbor a deep resentment towards me.
Grampa: Mm. Interesting.

No lack of footage... (1)

moo083 (716213) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343252)

Well, the parents won't have to regret not video taping their kid as a baby later on. They'll have possibly more footage of their baby than any other parents in the world...

Baby videos? (1)

raiofsunshine (973707) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343263)

The study itself sounds highly fascinating, but like others, I find myself wondering what the child will say in ten or twenty years. However, how many people truly object to the sharing of baby photos and home videos? It's nearly a given that people proudly display these items every chance they get. I don't think this study is going to help much, and it would most likely yield better results if the reserchers used many different babies in other households.

Re:Baby videos? (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343385)

I find myself wondering what the child will say in ten or twenty years.

Probably "he touched me here..." while pointing to a doll in the courtroom.

Ever notice that what is easy is hard? (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343453)

This is really kind of funny but the vast majority of people teach their children how to speak yet we don't know how they they teach their children how to speak?
Just like it is easy to write a program that can calculate sin but really hard to write one that can follow verbal directions as well as a a four year old?

In other words it is easy to teach a machine what is taught in school.
It is very hard to teach a machine what is taught by parents.

Re:Ever notice that what is easy is hard? (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343496)

"Just like it is easy to write a program that can calculate sin"

I dunno, in these our modern times sin has become pretty much incalculable.

Re:Ever notice that what is easy is hard? (1)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343726)

This is one of the greatest ironies in the world.

Get two of the smartest, most well-read and diligent scientists together, and they can design and screate amazing wonders... Yet they still can't create anything even remotely as complex as two of the dumbest fucks (pun intended) in the world can do if they're of the opposite sexes.

If only it were the other way around...

call me crazy... (1)

canning (228134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343302)

Call me crazy but my wife and I just had a baby and the last thing I would want is for for her to become an experiment.

How do they know that this type of intervention/interference at such an impressionable age won't have life altering reprocussions? There are just some things that should be left well enough alone and this is one of them.

Maybe it's just me though.

It can be worst (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343379)

Me and my brother are named after the characters in Bonanza. Adam and Ben Cartwright.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonanza [wikipedia.org]

Re:It can be worst (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343689)

That's nothing. I used to work with a guy named Richard Bender, and he voluntarily went by Dick. So his name was "Dick Bender".

Re:It can be worst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343722)

They could've named you "Hoss" or "Little Joe" :-)

Re:call me crazy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343471)

It is just you. You're thinking emotionally, not rationally. The monitoring devices are cameras and microphones: non-interfering. The cameras are cieling-mounted. They won't harm the infant.

And hey, sometimes you've got to study a few eggs to make an omelette.

Re:call me crazy... (1)

Zaphod2016 (971897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343649)

Perhaps not "life altering reprocussions", but certinly some degree of the Hawthorne effect. [wikipedia.org] .

I'm not sure if this is universal, but whenever I go to photograph or video any kids in my family, the moment they realize they are on camera they all turn into a spastic Jim Carrey impersonator. Sure its cute, but not exactly "useful" in any scientific sense.

What happens to the expirement when the child discovers a camera?

Assuming all camera remain hidden for the life of the expirement: What happens to the child after being told they were secretly recorded for years and years?

Re:call me crazy... (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343653)

As the parent of a 17 year old I'm really glad you feel that way. IMHO too many geeks are too interested in finding out 'how this bit works' to fully consider the humanity beneath.

Good luck with parenting, the greatest thing you'll ever do.

Interaction is the answer. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343304)

There is not much more for a camera to record here (of the baby).

The baby will make sounds constantly. More and more sounds as time progresses.

The parents (video camera operators?) will from time to time notice sounds that sound like sounds they understand and respond very positively to these sounds.

OH MY!!!!! I just heard the baby say XX OR XX OR XX OR XX (all references to daddy).

All these will be thought to be something profound concerning the babies actions.

But not due to the baby saying them, but because the baby's reaction to the parent who understands them and makes a HUGE ordeal of them.

My daughter had 3 such moments. The first time she said the baby sounds for daddy each of the 3 languages my wife and I speak.

We noticed and more importantly, the baby (our daughter) noticed we noticed.

Babies make sounds all the time (some say of all languages), but parents largely define the importance of those sounds for the babies. The babies merely respond because they like the attention, especially positive, of parents who's faces they see all the time.

I cant help but think this will teach these researchers more about how babies learn to accept new faces or events or actions as normal rather than how they learn languages.

Re:Interaction is the answer. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343405)

"...each of the 3 languages my wife and I speak."


Just a guess, but is one of those languages "pompous ass"?

Re:Interaction is the answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343558)

Interesting that me posting as an Anonymous Coward would result in this type of trite response.

We all waste our time in some fashion, which causes some to be more rounded in some areas than others.

I am sure you can tell me something relevant, but why get upset that I can share that with those who speak in different ways than you?

In the end, I would offer you a beer, but alas I only have imported wine and cheese. At least one is applicable, but I cant seem to find the words to say which.

Re:Interaction is the answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343601)

He's just not American.

Re:Interaction is the answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343660)

Yeah, because three different languages between two people is bragging. In many places that would be barely adequate to do day to day business. Maybe they both moved to an english speaking country after growing up learning different languages?

Either way, it is vaguely relevant to the discussion.

Re:Interaction is the answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343626)

EXACTLY!

Babies also will respond better to higher piched parise then low pitch praise, I didn't speak until I was 3 years old, My father also happens to have a voice liek Barry White, the doctors said I was scared, regardless of what he was saying.

Computational Linguistics (3, Interesting)

mailman-zero (730254) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343311)

My major is in Computational Linguistics. This sounds like a good idea as far a research goes, but the sad fact is that this will not be enough. We already know a LOT about the developmental stages in which children begin to acquire language and the relationships between the mental dictionary lookup and the rule applying mechanisms that compete with one another to produce the fastest possible production of intelligible sentences. What we don't understand is how it happens. This study will not let us know that.

What would be better is to develop algorithms that try and mimic the learning process we already have observed in native language acquisition and then continue to refine our algorithms until we have perfected that process. We will only know we have it right when you can take those same algorithms, put them to use by exposing it to a different language and have it still learn it right.

Re:Computational Linguistics (1)

drmarcj (807884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343528)

One thing this will address is the kinds of input kids get, since we're interested in what kids have to learn from exposure vs. what they get for free from their genes (so to speak). Currently our guesses at this are based on brief recordings taken weeks apart, usually in a structured setting (see the CHILDES project at CMU for more info). A lot has been made of productions that children allegedly make without having been exposed to a model in parental speech, but we don't always know if it's true. The recordings could have missed it, given the very sparse sampling that's done. Projects like these could give us a more realistic view of what kinds of things parents say to/around kids, giving us a better idea of what they are using to learn language.

Re:Computational Linguistics (1)

Zaphod2016 (971897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343712)

We will only know we have it right when you can take those same algorithms, put them to use by exposing it to a different language and have it still learn it right.

Honest question: won't your algorithms be (at least partly) based on sentence structure? I.E. "The dog went into the house" v. "Inside the house is the dog"? If so, wouldn't this force an algorithm-approach to remain language-based?

I'm having a hell of a time learning Mandarin, simply due to the totally different sentence structure it uses (v. American English).

Well... (2, Funny)

nosredna (672587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343325)

It worked out well for Ender [wikipedia.org]

I did something like this (3, Interesting)

Cthefuture (665326) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343351)

when my own child was born. Back then I was working in artificial intelligence (for a commercial application, and I'm no MIT graduate) and I spend the first couple years taking meticulous notes, video, audio recordings and similar. I also worked with a few other children but not as deeply.

What I found is that the sample size was way too small. Almost every child has vastly different development patterns and to see the big picture you need a bigger sample than one kid. We're talking about a huge effort to collect that much data on many children but I think that is what will be required to even begin to understand how it works.

It's the fucking Truman Show! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343365)

Where the fuck is Ed Harris when you need him???

There's no point in entering anymore... (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343383)

This family will take home the prize on all the "Funniest Home Videos" shows every time. The funniest moments with my kids always happen when we're not using the camcorder.

Proud first words (4, Funny)

khendron (225184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343457)

I hope the kid's first words are something to be proud of.

I once saw a Mother eating some take-out fast food with her gurgling offspring. The kid was very vocal but couldn't say anything more than "goo" and "ga ga." The mother was doing the traditional "say Mommy, say Mommmmeeeee" thing when the kid pointed at the logo on the paper cup and said, very clearly, "McDonalds."

The mother did not look pleased.

Re:Proud first words (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343705)

That is awesome.

I have a seventeen month old. Her first words were, I believe, Mommy and Daddy, but following very closely behind that was "kitty." Since then, our cat has been a constant source of fascination for her, and prompts a lot of conversations along these lines:

the kid: Kitty!
me: Yes, honey. It's a kitty!
the kid: Lookitda kitty!
me: I know! I see the kitty!
the kid: Mao mao mao!!!!!

Et cetera.

Am I the only one (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343474)

Thinking of B.F. Skinner [wikipedia.org] and the Skinner Box [wikipedia.org]

Re:Am I the only one (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343520)

hopefully, because there's a pretty big goddamn difference between a Skinner Box and simply videotaping someone.

If I had to draw an analogy, I'd say it's kind of like the difference between having a police officer glare at you dissaprovingly and being jailed.

Re:Am I the only one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343589)

Hopefully, you idiot, because there's no relation

I've Seen This Movie Already... (0, Redundant)

mshiltonj (220311) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343505)

... when it was called "The Truman Show [imdb.com] ".

Interesting (1)

GmAz (916505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343568)

This really interests me since I have a 7 week old baby girl. A couple my wife and I know has an 11 month old baby and they said about a few weeks ago, that everything just suddenly clicked. He started to say words and actually knows the meaning of them, started to walk and many other things in about a weeks time. Its like the light switch was finally switched on. With my baby who is much much younger, my wife and I saw a big change about 2 weeks ago. She started to react to situations the same (happy, sad, scared, etc). She has gotten more coordinated in doing certain things. Its really amazing how much they learn by instinct and by just watching the world around them.

As for speech, I believe the learning curve for babies to talk depends on how they are spoken to. If you GooGoo and GaaGaa at them all day in gibberish baby talk, they aren't going to learn how to speak very easily. But if you talk to them as you would talk to a young child, they are more apt to speak early themselves.

Re:Interesting (1)

LeeMeador (924391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343644)

As for speech, I believe the learning curve for babies to talk depends on how they are spoken to. If you GooGoo and GaaGaa at them all day in gibberish baby talk, they aren't going to learn how to speak very easily. But if you talk to them as you would talk to a young child, they are more apt to speak early themselves.

I always hoped my kids would be smarter than that. Only really stupid people repeat just what they hear. Smarter people are more selective.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343735)

I always hoped my kids would be smarter than that. Only really stupid people repeat just what they hear. Smarter people are more selective.

So, you think your kids will be born with genetic knowledge of grammar and pronunciation? Impressive.

Re:Interesting (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343829)

As for speech, I believe the learning curve for babies to talk depends on how they are spoken to. If you GooGoo and GaaGaa at them all day in gibberish baby talk, they aren't going to learn how to speak very easily. But if you talk to them as you would talk to a young child, they are more apt to speak early themselves.

I wish I had my Child Psych text from college with me. I used to think that, too, but there was a study noted in the text that showed that baby talk actually helped language acquisition. IIRC, the reason behind it was that gibberish exposed children to a wider variety of sounds than the every day objects babies are exposed to.

-l

Re:Interesting (1)

assantisz (881107) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343854)

I must disagree with the "everything just suddenly clicked" statement. My experience with my now 3yo toddler is that language acquisition as well as learning how to walk etc. are gradual processes. Speaking starts with blowing raspberries, making nonsense sounds, and slowly forming vowels and consonants. I remember that my daughter's first word was "ball" (or "tree"; it's been a while). It didn't come suddenly out of nowhere; it was "grown" out of playful sounds and mimicking the surroundings.

The same with crawling, walking, etc. Walking usually starts with the ability to pull yourself up (on furniture, for example). Then they start "cruising" around, holding onto the bookshelf. Then the kid wants to hold your hands and walk while holding you (back-breaking times, I say!), and eventually when she gathered enough courage she will let go and make her own few steps. And practices and practices.

Anyway, congratulations to your seven week old. You are in for a long ride ;-) I hope you and your wife are getting enough sleep.

Obligatory (3, Funny)

GrouchoMarx (153170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343599)

Think of the children!

(Someone had to say it...)

Re:Obligatory (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343652)

--GrouchoMarx
Card-carrying member of the EFF, FSF, and ACLU. Are you?

I wouldn't want to belong to any club that accepts you as a member ;)

Big Brother? (1)

uniqueUser (879166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343633)

Is this realy Big Brother? or is it science? What is it with these headlines?

Re:Big Brother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15343784)

For most it is easier to accept Big Brother than to accept Darwin, er Science.

Segfaults? (4, Funny)

19061969 (939279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343688)

Quoth the article: "All the footage is being classified by algorithms."

Ha! Just imagine what an algorithm would say when it fills its nappy: "Core dump - segfault at location @r$e."

Iterative refinement (2, Insightful)

hey (83763) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343696)

First baby thows out an early prototype. eg "Ga-ga". This is praised
however some constructive critism by the clients (parents) is offered - eg "Da-da". Baby then adapts the first prototype and re-demos it for the users and clients. And so on.

By the time version 3 (years) is reached baby is still in the iterative refinement design and development mode. For example: "I eated dinner". The user-clients offer "I ate dinner" as a correction that is a new feature in version 3.5.

Re:Iterative refinement (1)

dsci (658278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343821)

I wish I had mod points; You should be modded +5 Right On.

I have a three year old and an 11 mo. old, so we are in both stages right now. It seems to me to be about a constant input-praise-input cycle. My three year old's vocabulary is increasing so rapidly it is amazing to witness, and the young one is trying so hard to communicate (sometimes anyway; others it is just 'can I make noise?').

On the topic of being recorded 14 hrs a day, I sure would not want that. Maybe it is just personal preference waving its head, but I doubt the scientific insight to come from this experiment would outweigh the intrusion/invasion factor.

He is to be commended... (1)

Yoda2 (522522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343759)

Sure there are some ethical questions surrounding this, but he is making a huge personal sacrifice in the name of science and has insured that reasonable safeguards are in place. This could provide incredible insights into the language acquisition process.

In other news... (1)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 8 years ago | (#15343776)


The father and mothers friends, family, and neighbors will stop returning their calls after the second time they hear "come see the video of everything junior did today!"

Junior's first girlfriend will die of starvation after 36 straight hours of family videos.

Junior will spend the second 5 years of his live watching what he did for the first 5 years of his life. That 5 year event will be recorded and used to determine how people learn by watching videos of themselves learning.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>