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Baby Meets Big Brother For Science 188

Posted by Zonk
from the all-about-learning dept.
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."
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Baby Meets Big Brother For Science

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  • Videos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:26AM (#15343150) Journal
    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.
  • by mailman-zero (730254) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:47AM (#15343311) Homepage
    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.
  • by Cthefuture (665326) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:53AM (#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.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:04PM (#15343453) Homepage Journal
    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:Videos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 955301 (209856) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:05PM (#15343463) Journal
    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...
  • 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."

    There's one thing I still don't understand. Sure, I know that McDonalds all pervasive advertising campaign virtually assure brand recognition by age three. I know that McDonalds isn't the only company engaged in this. I know how this works.

    No. What I don't understand is why it works. Why do children fixate on McDonalds so much? What is the secret sause here? And it's not just McDonalds. Apparently, brand loyalty can be instilled before the third year.

    This perplexes me. What's driving these kids to say McDonalds before Mommy?

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." -- Aesop

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