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Research

Research Interests

  • Human-Robot Interaction (HRI)
    • Non-verbal gesture and communication in physical human-robot interaction (implicit interaction), especially within the context of human-robot shared-task.
  • Roboethics / Robot Ethics
    • Social and ethical implication of physical interaction between human and robot in a shared task environment
    • Deliberating democratically about ethics of robots / robotics

Studies suggest that people feel more positively toward robots that work with people rather than those that replace them. This means that in order to create robots that can collaborate and share tasks with humans, human-human interaction dynamics must be understood – key components of which could be replicated in human-robot interaction.

My current research focuses on how simple a non-verbal gesture (like that of jerky hesitation motion of your hand when you and another person reach for the same last piece of chocolate at the same time) can be used to play a role in building a more human-friendly human-robot interaction.

These gestures seem to have communicative functionality, and affect the social hierarchy and/or relationship between the two agents involved in the interaction (i.e., who gets the chocolate in the end? who yields the chocolate and how does that affect your relationship with the other person?). It is these kinds of non-verbal gestures that I am interested in studying within the context of human and robot collaboratively working together in a shared workspace.

Projects:

Shared Human-Robot Decision-Making

People share spaces and objects with each other every day. When conflicts regarding access to these shared resources occur, people communicate with each other to negotiate a solution. But what should a robot do when such conflicts occur between a human and a robotic assistant? Answers to this question depend on the context of the situation. In order for robots to be successfully deployed in homes and workplaces, it is important for robots to be equipped with the ability to make socially and morally acceptable decisions about the conflict at hand. However, robots today are not very good at making such decisions. The objective of my research is to investigate an interactive paradigm of human-robot conflict resolution that does not involve complicated, artificial moral decision making. I am currently working on a robotic system that can communicatively negotiate about resource conflicts with its human partner using nonverbal gestures.

Human-like Hesitation Gestures for Human-Robot Resource Conflicts

Studies suggest that people feel more positively toward robots that work with people rather than those that replace them. This means that in order to create robots that can collaborate and share tasks with humans, human-human interaction dynamics must be understood – key components of which could be replicated in human-robot interaction.

This research project focused on how simple a non-verbal gesture (like that of jerky hesitant motion of your hand when you and another person reach for the same last piece of chocolate at the same time) can superimposed on the functional reaching motions of a robot, so that robots can express its uncertainty to human users. This research project led to the development of a characteristic motion profile, called the Acceleration-based Hesitation Profile (AHP) a robotic manipulator can use to generate humanlike hesitation motions as a response to resource conflicts (e.g., reaching for the same thing at the same time).

Take a look at how the designed hesitations look in contrast to abrupt collision avoidance responses.
Designed hesitation responses (AHP):

Abrupt stopping responses:

And what happens if the robot doesn’t stop at all: