A Framework for Understanding Verbal Route Instructions

Matt MacMahon

My goal is to understand human verbal route instructions by modeling and implementing the language, knowledge representation, and cognitive processes needed to communicate about spatial routes. To understand human route instructions, I ran a study of how people give and follow route instructions. I modeled the language used in the route instruction texts using standard computational linguistics techniques. I model the information content of the route instruction texts using a spatial ontology. I introduce a set of axioms and heuristics that can autonomously transform a linguistic representation of what the route director said into a semantic representation of the intended route. This semantic representation has been implemented in mobile robots that can navigate and accomplish simultaneous localization and mapping in real- world environments. Finally, I model the processes of following and giving route instructions as Markov processes.

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