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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

Programming in Pure English

Date Released: Tue, 17 May 2011 09:26 +0200

A South African teenager has reached the semi-finals of the international Google Science Fair with a project that enables users to program robots in pure, natural English sentences instead of a hard-to-learn computer programming language.  Luke Taylor, a 14-year-old robotics whizz from the German International School in Cape Town, used Natural Language Parsing, an area of research in computational linguistics, to translate some simple English commands into C-Code which a Lego Mindstorms robot can understand.

This summary of the project appears on the Google Science Fair website:

Programming robots can be a slow and challenging endeavor. This researcher asked: is it possible to design an application that can translate English instructions directly into compilable code that a robot can execute? The goal was to assist those struggling with existing graphic and text-based programming languages. With this in mind, he embarked on a project to help robots understand commands written in natural human language. He limited design and testing to a prototype robot called Tribot and used only a basic set of instructions. The resulting application, SIMPLE, analyzes and translates English sentences into C-code. It also compiles and downloads them, as well as assisting users via prompts that request required information to program the robot.

To vote for Luke's project to receive the People's Choice award in the age 13-14 category of the Science Fair, visit http://www.google.com/events/sciencefair/projects/programming_in_pure_e.html

To see Luke's complete Google Science Fair entry, click on http://sites.google.com/site/lukesgsfentry/home.

At Rhodes Linguistics, Dr Zhaleh Feizollahi is our local natural language processing expert. She has done work with Microsoft on spoken dialogue systems.