Stanford researchers have developed a program that can, at a most basic level, learn language. In studying whether the brain is hard-wired with preset sounds or if it acquires the basics of speech dynamically, a computer program was designed to learn speech. After listening to hours of Japanese and English mother-to-baby talk, the computer was able to learn the basic vowel sounds just as a baby. The computer performed so well that its accuracy was measured between 80-90%, depending on the software architecture (and whether it was "nappie time").
Language acquisition has long been seen as a specialty of the brain—a strength of the species, if you will. To re-create one of our most distinct qualities in a lab setting is either impressive for computers or pitiful for humans. Then again, be comforted knowing that when computers do speak, they'll sound just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, anyway. [arstechnica]