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A Newborn Embodied Turing Test for Comparing Object Segmentation Across Animals and Machines

Manju Garimella · Denizhan Pak · Justin Wood · Samantha Wood

Halle B #61
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Newborn brains rapidly learn to solve challenging object recognition tasks, including segmenting objects from backgrounds and recognizing objects across novel backgrounds and viewpoints. Conversely, modern machine-learning (ML) algorithms are "data hungry," requiring more training data than brains to reach similar performance levels. How do we close this learning gap between brains and machines? Here we introduce a new benchmark—a Newborn Embodied Turing Test (NETT) for object segmentation—in which newborn animals and machines are raised in the same environments and tested with the same tasks, permitting direct comparison of their learning abilities. First, we raised newborn chicks in controlled environments containing a single object rotating on a single background, then tested their ability to recognize that object across new backgrounds and viewpoints. Second, we performed “digital twin” experiments in which we reared and tested artificial chicks in virtual environments that mimicked the rearing and testing conditions of the biological chicks. We inserted a variety of ML “brains” into the artificial chicks and measured whether those algorithms learned common object recognition behavior as biological chicks. All biological chicks solved this one-shot object segmentation task, successfully learning background-invariant object representations that generalized across new backgrounds and viewpoints. In contrast, none of the artificial chicks solved this object segmentation task, instead learning background-dependent representations that failed to generalize across new backgrounds and viewpoints. This digital twin design exposes core limitations in current ML algorithms in achieving brain-like object perception. Our NETT is publicly available for comparing ML algorithms with newborn chicks. Ultimately, we anticipate that NETT benchmarks will allow researchers to build embodied AI systems that learn as efficiently and robustly as newborn brains.

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