A robot is on its way to passing the mirror test — a classic test of self-awareness that dolphins, orcas, elephants, magpies, humans and a few other apes have passed, the New Scientist reported. No other animals and no robots have ever passed the mirror test.
So far, Nico, a robot built by researchers at Yale University, is able to determine where objects are in space by looking at their reflections in a mirror. Humans do the same when they use mirrors to aim a hairbrush, or when they use their rearview mirrors to check for cars, Nico's programmer Justin Hart told the KurzweilAI newsletter. Nico doesn't think objects are inside the mirror, as do animals that don't pass the mirror test.
Nico's creators are now working on programming Nico to recognize itself in a mirror, which is the full mirror test. Typically, an animal taking the mirror test gets some time to check out the mirror, then researchers sedate it and paint a spot on its forehead. When the animal wakes up, researchers show it the mirror again. Animals that pass the mirror test touch their own foreheads, curious about the new paint spot.
The self-awareness needed to pass the mirror test will help robots work safely alongside humans, Mary-Anne Williams of the University of Technology, Sydney, told the New Scientist.