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Grounded Language Learning Fast and Slow

Felix Hill, Olivier Tieleman, Tamara von Glehn, Nathaniel Wong, Hamza Merzic, Stephen Clark

[ Abstract ] [ Livestream: Visit Oral Session 8 ] [ Paper ]

Recent work has shown that large text-based neural language models acquire a surprising propensity for one-shot learning. Here, we show that an agent situated in a simulated 3D world, and endowed with a novel dual-coding external memory, can exhibit similar one-shot word learning when trained with conventional RL algorithms. After a single introduction to a novel object via visual perception and language ("This is a dax"), the agent can manipulate the object as instructed ("Put the dax on the bed"), combining short-term, within-episode knowledge of the nonsense word with long-term lexical and motor knowledge. We find that, under certain training conditions and with a particular memory writing mechanism, the agent's one-shot word-object binding generalizes to novel exemplars within the same ShapeNet category, and is effective in settings with unfamiliar numbers of objects. We further show how dual-coding memory can be exploited as a signal for intrinsic motivation, stimulating the agent to seek names for objects that may be useful later. Together, the results demonstrate that deep neural networks can exploit meta-learning, episodic memory and an explicitly multi-modal environment to account for 'fast-mapping', a fundamental pillar of human cognitive development and a potentially transformative capacity for artificial agents.

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