Human-Robot Interaction

Human-Robot Interaction

Jutta Weber (Technical University Carolo Wilhelmina of Brunswick, Germany)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-863-5.ch061
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Abstract

Some people regard the personal mobile robot as a candidate for the next digital revolution as it might become a future ubiquitous tool and everyday partner of humans. This new “socio-emotional” robot is supposed to conduct dialogue, to develop social competencies and to support users in everyday life. In this chapter, I sketch out the epistemological, ontological and techno-material groundings of personal service robotics which is based on new models of human-machine interaction like caregiver-infant or pet-owner. I discuss the conversational paradigm in Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) with its problematic concepts of “pre-given” social mechanisms, uninformed users as well as its new understanding of sociality as service.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Robotics: The term social robot or sociable robot was coined by Aude Billard and Kerstin Dautenhahn (Billard & Dautenhahn, 1997; Fong et al., 2003) and Cynthia Breazeal (2002). The field of social robotics concentrates on the development and design of robots which interact socially with humans, but sociality between robots (e.g., in multirobot systems) is not part of the field. We can distinguish between a weak and a strong approach in social robotics. While the strong approach wants to “evolve” robots which have the capabilities to display social and emotional behavior, the weak approach investigates in the imitation of social and emotional behavior only. Social robots need to show the “human social” characteristics like the expression of emotions, the ability to conduct high-level dialogue, to learn, to develop personality, to use natural cues, and to develop social competencies (Breazeal, 2002; Fong et al., 2003; Weber, 2005b). Pioneers and leading researchers in this field are Cynthia Breazeal, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Aude Billard, Frederic Kaplan, among others. In the last years, the term Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) became more prominent than that of “social robotics.”

Social Robotics: The term social robot or sociable robot was coined by Aude Billard and Kerstin Dautenhahn (Billard & Dautenhahn, 1997; Fong et al., 2003) and Cynthia Breazeal (2002). The field of social robotics concentrates on the development and design of robots which interact socially with humans, but sociality between robots (e.g., in multirobot systems) is not part of the field. We can distinguish between a weak and a strong approach in social robotics. While the strong approach wants to “evolve” robots which have the capabilities to display social and emotional behavior, the weak approach investigates in the imitation of social and emotional behavior only. Social robots need to show the “human social” characteristics like the expression of emotions, the ability to conduct high-level dialogue, to learn, to develop personality, to use natural cues, and to develop social competencies (Breazeal, 2002; Fong et al., 2003; Weber, 2005b). Pioneers and leading researchers in this field are Cynthia Breazeal, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Aude Billard, Frederic Kaplan, among others. In the last years, the term Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) became more prominent than that of “social robotics.”

Master-Slave: In general, the term master/slave refers to: (a). a model that describes a hierarchical relation between an expert (master) and a machine (slave) or an user (master) and a machine (slave), or (b). a model that describes a hierarchical relation between devices or processes (e.g., in computer networking). A master/slave relation is characterized by the unidirectional control of the master over the slave. In the last years discussions arose on the political correctness of the term. The County of Los Angeles sent an e-mail to its manufacturers, contractors and suppliers, asking them not to use the term in question (Eglash, 2007). But it is doubtful whether other terms such as boss-worker, mother-daughter, are more helpful to describe a hierarchical relation between an expert and a machine or two devices.

Human-Robot Interaction (HRI): As social robotics becomes more and more cross-disciplinary beyond engineering and computer science and draws more and more on the knowledge and resources from Human-Computer Interaction, the term Human-Robot Interaction slowly substitutes the term “social robotics.” HRI as a cross-disciplinary field lies between robotics, AI, cognitive science, (developmental) psychology, interaction design, biology and especially ethology. It would be desirable to have pedagogy, sociology, philosophy and science and technology studies as part of the field. HRI investigates in the question of the human perception of robot systems, of user friendliness, on the question of design (anthropomorph, zoomorph or functional robots) as well as ethical considerations (Kiesler & Hinds, 2004; Rogers & Murphy, 2004). Relevant conferences and publications are the Proceedings of the Humanoid Robots Conference, the RO-MAN Workshop and recently the Human-Robot Interaction Workshop. The journal Interaction Studies. Social Behavior and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems is a new founded journal edited by Kerstin Dautenhahn and Harold Gouzoules covering issues in HRI, Artificial Life and biologically-inspired robotics.

Human-Robot Interaction (HRI): As social robotics becomes more and more cross-disciplinary beyond engineering and computer science and draws more and more on the knowledge and resources from Human-Computer Interaction, the term Human-Robot Interaction slowly substitutes the term “social robotics.” HRI as a cross-disciplinary field lies between robotics, AI, cognitive science, (developmental) psychology, interaction design, biology and especially ethology. It would be desirable to have pedagogy, sociology, philosophy and science and technology studies as part of the field. HRI investigates in the question of the human perception of robot systems, of user friendliness, on the question of design (anthropomorph, zoomorph or functional robots) as well as ethical considerations (Kiesler & Hinds, 2004; Rogers & Murphy, 2004). Relevant conferences and publications are the Proceedings of the Humanoid Robots Conference, the RO-MAN Workshop and recently the Human-Robot Interaction Workshop. The journal Interaction Studies. Social Behavior and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems is a new founded journal edited by Kerstin Dautenhahn and Harold Gouzoules covering issues in HRI, Artificial Life and biologically-inspired robotics.

Robot: As there is no general binding definition of robot, robots are often defined according to the field of specialization they are supposed to work in. For example, the traditional definition of the German Society of Engineers (VDI) is oriented toward manufacturing robots in the industry: “A robot is a free and re-programmable multifunctional manipulator with at least three independent axes, to move materials, parts, tools, or special machines on programmed, variable tracks to accomplish various tasks” (quoted in Christaller et al., 2001, p. 18; translated by M. Nagenborg). With regard to service robots the definition of robots changes enormously: “A robot which operates semi or fully autonomously to perform services useful to the well being of humans and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations. Classification: Servicing humans (personal safeguarding, entertainment etc.), Servicing equipment (maintenance, repair, cleaning, etc.), Others performing an autonomous function (surveillance, transport, data acquisition, etc.) or service robots that can not be classified in the above two groups. (International Federation of Robotics, 2005) Including professional as well as personal service robots Christaller et al. redefine the term robot in the following way: “Robots are sensomotoric machines for the extension of human capability. They are made of mechatronic components, sensors, and computer-based control and steering functions. The complexity of a robot makes it clearly different from other machines, due to bigger number of levels of freedom and the variety and extent of its ways of behaviour“ (Christaller et al., 2001, p. 19; translated by J. Weber).

Embodiment: Embodiment in robotics has at least two dimensions. On the one hand, embodiment refers to agents which are physically embodied and interact with their environment. The intimate coupling of system and (real) environment is regarded as crucial for the development of intelligent robots: “The real world is, in a sense, part of the ‘knowledge’ the agent needs to behave appropriately. It can merely ‘look at it’ through the sensors. In a sense, the world is its own best model” (Pfeifer & Scheier, 1999, p. 73). On the other hand, embodied robots are supposed to interact with a variety of physical forces or with dangers. They need to handle the problem of energy and any influence through the environment. A lot of abstractions and reductionisms introduced by the symbol-processing approach of robotics to get rid of the problem of embodiment are taken back.

Robot: As there is no general binding definition of robot, robots are often defined according to the field of specialization they are supposed to work in. For example, the traditional definition of the German Society of Engineers (VDI) is oriented toward manufacturing robots in the industry: “A robot is a free and re-programmable multifunctional manipulator with at least three independent axes, to move materials, parts, tools, or special machines on programmed, variable tracks to accomplish various tasks” (quoted in Christaller et al., 2001, p. 18; translated by M. Nagenborg). With regard to service robots the definition of robots changes enormously: “A robot which operates semi or fully autonomously to perform services useful to the well being of humans and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations. Classification: Servicing humans (personal safeguarding, entertainment etc.), Servicing equipment (maintenance, repair, cleaning, etc.), Others performing an autonomous function (surveillance, transport, data acquisition, etc.) or service robots that can not be classified in the above two groups. (International Federation of Robotics, 2005) Including professional as well as personal service robots Christaller et al. redefine the term robot in the following way: “Robots are sensomotoric machines for the extension of human capability. They are made of mechatronic components, sensors, and computer-based control and steering functions. The complexity of a robot makes it clearly different from other machines, due to bigger number of levels of freedom and the variety and extent of its ways of behaviour“ (Christaller et al., 2001, p. 19; translated by J. Weber).

Embodiment: Embodiment in robotics has at least two dimensions. On the one hand, embodiment refers to agents which are physically embodied and interact with their environment. The intimate coupling of system and (real) environment is regarded as crucial for the development of intelligent robots: “The real world is, in a sense, part of the ‘knowledge’ the agent needs to behave appropriately. It can merely ‘look at it’ through the sensors. In a sense, the world is its own best model” (Pfeifer & Scheier, 1999, p. 73). On the other hand, embodied robots are supposed to interact with a variety of physical forces or with dangers. They need to handle the problem of energy and any influence through the environment. A lot of abstractions and reductionisms introduced by the symbol-processing approach of robotics to get rid of the problem of embodiment are taken back.

Master-Slave: In general, the term master/slave refers to: (a). a model that describes a hierarchical relation between an expert (master) and a machine (slave) or an user (master) and a machine (slave), or (b). a model that describes a hierarchical relation between devices or processes (e.g., in computer networking). A master/slave relation is characterized by the unidirectional control of the master over the slave. In the last years discussions arose on the political correctness of the term. The County of Los Angeles sent an e-mail to its manufacturers, contractors and suppliers, asking them not to use the term in question (Eglash, 2007). But it is doubtful whether other terms such as boss-worker, mother-daughter, are more helpful to describe a hierarchical relation between an expert and a machine or two devices.

Caregiver–Infant: The credo of social robotics is to develop machines which adapt in a natural and intuitive manner to humans. To realize this goal often developmental psychology is used. Researchers try to implement “curiosity” and the “imitation drive” into robots, to make them “learn” from humans. One example is the Cynthia Breazeal’s robot torso Kismet. Its relation to the human (expert or user) is modeled after early infant-caregiver interactions. Following developmental psychology Breazeal (2002) claims that the “initial perceptual and behavioral responses bias an infant to interact with adults and encourage a caregiver to interact with and care for him. … She [The caregiver; JW] allows the infant to experiment and learn how his responses influence her” (Breazeal 2002, p. 37; my emphasis). Breazeal argues for this model because she sees the mother-child relationship as the simplest human relationship, a quite amazing approach. The model itself evokes the picture of a stereotypical bourgeois nuclear family, where the housewife dedicates her time to the education of the only child. On the one hand, modeling human-robot relations as caregiver-infant relations is the outcome of the quite limited cognitive abilities and behavior of today’s robots. Introducing the robot as a baby or young child is a way to naturalize these limitations. On the other hand, it is part of the process to reconfigure human-machine relations as social and to hide its immanent technical aspects. This concept works with a very reduced and stereotypical–if not sexist–image of the future (female) everyday user of social robots.

Caregiver–Infant: The credo of social robotics is to develop machines which adapt in a natural and intuitive manner to humans. To realize this goal often developmental psychology is used. Researchers try to implement “curiosity” and the “imitation drive” into robots, to make them “learn” from humans. One example is the Cynthia Breazeal’s robot torso Kismet. Its relation to the human (expert or user) is modeled after early infant-caregiver interactions. Following developmental psychology Breazeal (2002) claims that the “initial perceptual and behavioral responses bias an infant to interact with adults and encourage a caregiver to interact with and care for him. … She [The caregiver; JW] allows the infant to experiment and learn how his responses influence her” (Breazeal 2002, p. 37; my emphasis). Breazeal argues for this model because she sees the mother-child relationship as the simplest human relationship, a quite amazing approach. The model itself evokes the picture of a stereotypical bourgeois nuclear family, where the housewife dedicates her time to the education of the only child. On the one hand, modeling human-robot relations as caregiver-infant relations is the outcome of the quite limited cognitive abilities and behavior of today’s robots. Introducing the robot as a baby or young child is a way to naturalize these limitations. On the other hand, it is part of the process to reconfigure human-machine relations as social and to hide its immanent technical aspects. This concept works with a very reduced and stereotypical–if not sexist–image of the future (female) everyday user of social robots.

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