Researchers are programming robots to communicate with people using human-like body language and cues, an important step toward bringing robots into homes.
"We hand things to other people multiple times a day and we do it seamlessly," says AJung Moon, a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Getting this to work between a robot and a person is really important if we want robots to be helpful in fetching us things in our homes or at work."
Moon and her colleagues studied what people do with their heads, necks and eyes when they hand water bottles to one another. They then tested three variations of this interaction with Charlie and the 102 study participants.
[NB: Video available at: http://youtu.be/5AQ-E3njViw]
Programming the robot to use eye gaze as a nonverbal cue made the handover more fluid. Researchers found that people reached out to take the water bottle sooner in scenarios where the robot moved its head to look at the area where it would hand over the water bottle or looked to the handover location and then up at the person to make eye contact.
"We want the robot to communicate using the cues that people already recognize," says Moon. "This is key to interacting with a robot in a safe and friendly manner."
This paper won best paper at the IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.
Contact: Heather Amos
University of British Columbia
Photonic Space: You may recall that the robot android in the film Prometheus aimed for empathy using the persona of Lawrence of Arabia, but that didn't quite work out in a safe and friendly manner! Interesting idea though. ed.