A virtual toddler who can read basic words, recognise symbols, and even gets distracted could help unlock the secrets of the human brain.
Known as BabyX, the computer-generated child can mimic facial expressions and respond to positive feedback.
It was developed by the Auckland Bioengineering Institute as part of a project to recreate brain activity and model neural pathways.
It incorporates a number of algorithms, including one to mimic the neural behaviour of learning, and another allowing it to respond to praise. The researchers said: "BabyX is an interactive animated virtual infant prototype.
"(It) is a computer generated psychobiological simulation under development in the Laboratory of Animate Technologies and is an experimental vehicle incorporating computational models of basic neural systems involved in interactive behaviour and learning."
Real-life learning models are incorporated into BabyX, such as association, conditioning, repetition, and reinforcement learning.
The researchers added: "BabyX embodies many of the technologies we work on in the laboratory and is under continuous development, in its neural models, sensing systems, and also the realism of its real time computer graphics".