Socially Embodied Human-Robot Interaction: Addressing Human Emotions with Theories of Embodied Cognition

Socially Embodied Human-Robot Interaction: Addressing Human Emotions with Theories of Embodied Cognition

J. Lindblom (University of Skövde, Sweden) and B. Alenljung (University of Skövde, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7278-9.ch007
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A fundamental challenge of human interaction with socially interactive robots, compared to other interactive products, comes from them being embodied. The embodied nature of social robots questions to what degree humans can interact ‘naturally' with robots, and what impact the interaction quality has on the user experience (UX). UX is fundamentally about emotions that arise and form in humans through the use of technology in a particular situation. This chapter aims to contribute to the field of human-robot interaction (HRI) by addressing, in further detail, the role and relevance of embodied cognition for human social interaction, and consequently what role embodiment can play in HRI, especially for socially interactive robots. Furthermore, some challenges for socially embodied interaction between humans and socially interactive robots are outlined and possible directions for future research are presented. It is concluded that the body is of crucial importance in understanding emotion and cognition in general, and, in particular, for a positive user experience to emerge when interacting with socially interactive robots.
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The ability to engage in social interaction is a crucial building block of human culture, which is one of the major driving forces for the complexity of social life and cognition. Consequently, humans have become as experts at interacting socially, and if current interactive technology adheres to this human social ability, humans can find the interaction with socially interactive technology effortless, fun, and enjoyable, resulting in positive experience and feelings of being competent, as well as that the technology provides long-term additional value to human life. Thus, the user’s experience of interaction with technology is of major concern and has lately received increased interest, and the quality of the human-technology interaction is pivotal. A certain kind of technology that might achieve this kind of effortless social interaction between human and technology is social robots. Positive user experience underpins the proliferation of social robots in society (Weiss et al., 2009), and, thus, the user experience of social robots needs to be a central issue of concern. But a positive user experience does not appear by itself. Instead, the positive user experience has to be systematically, thoroughly, and consciously designed for (Hartson & Pyla, 2012; Hassenzahl, 2013), and an embodied interaction approach has been considered a viable therorethical foundation (e.g., Dourish, 2001; Harper et al., 2008; Hartson & Pyla, 2012; Rogers, 2012) for designing the interaction between human and technology.

The development of social robots is in rapid progress and new advances in computer technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and other areas have resulted in advanced robotic technology that have major implications for the research field of human-robot interaction (HRI). HRI is a relatively new and growing research field dealing with the way humans can interact with robots in different ways, ranging from less complicated individual human-robot interaction in highly constrained tasks to play and multifarious cooperation with humans in teams. The field of HRI is supposed to have an impact on the types of relationships humans’ can have with robots in general, and socially interactive robots in particular (cf. e.g., Dautenhahn & Saunders, 2011; Goodrich & Schultz, 2007; Thrun, 2004). HRI focuses on both human and robot factors, and is therefore a highly interdisciplinary and challenging research field. One of the major goals of HRI is to find the ‘natural’ means by which humans can use to interact and communicate with robots (see e.g., Fong et al., 2003). However, the embodied nature of interactive robots (Breazeal, 2003; Thrun, 2004), has several implications on the social interactions between humans and robots. For example, the activities of the robots and humans need to be coordinated “here and now” and take place in physical space (Dautenhahn & Saunders, 2011). Moreover, Thrun (2004) pointed out that there are differences between these social robots according to interface capabilities, potential user groups, skills, and the different contexts of use, in comparison to more traditional interactive systems. Taken together, the issues addressed in HRI are different from, as well as more complex, than the ones in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI), resulting in extensive challenges from several perspectives. The multi-disciplinary field of HRI offers many different views and approaches to the subject. We propose that research on embodiment, especially social and emotional interaction, can successfully be linked to the user experience of socially interactive robots, since embodied cognition can serve as a wider unifying theoretical perspective for HRI. Additionally, focusing on embodied cognition and the embodiment of (social) robots can challenge existing thinking in HRI research that have underestimated the influence of being embodied as a positive influence on the user experience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

User Experience Design (UXD): UXD refers to the judicious application of certain user-centered design practices, a highly contextual design mentality, and use of certain methods and techniques that are applied through process management to produce cohesive, predictable, and desirable effects in a specific person, or persona (archetype comprised of target audience habits and characteristics). All so that the affects produced meet the user’s own goals and measures of success and enjoyment, as well as the objectives of the providing organization (User Experience.UX Design, 2010 AU57: The in-text citation "User Experience.UX Design, 2010" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): Human-computer interaction is a discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them (Hewett et al., 1996 AU56: The in-text citation "Hewett et al., 1996" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Socially Interactive Robots: Socially interactive robots are robots for which social interaction plays a key role ( Fong et al., 2003 , p. 145).

Embodied Cognition: By using the term embodied we mean to highlight two points: first, that cognition depends upon the kinds of experiences that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities, and second, that these individual sensorimotor capacities themselves are embedded in a more surrounding biological, psychological and cultural context ( Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1991 ).

Human-Robot Interaction (HRI): HRI is the science of studying people’s behavior and attitudes towards robots in relationship to the physical, technological and interactive features of the robots, with the goal to develop robots that facilitate the emergence of human-robot interactions that are at the same time efficient (according to original requirements of their envisaged area of use), but are also acceptable to people, and meet the social and emotional needs of their individual users as well as respecting human values ( Dautenhahn, 2013 ).

User Experience (UX): The totality of the effect or effects felt by a user as a result of interaction with, and the usage context of, a system, device, or product, including the influence of usability, usefulness, and emotional impact during interaction and savoring memory after interaction ( Hartson & Pyla, 2012 , p. 5).

Embodiment: Embodiment refers to the experiences that arise from the living body in its interactions with a material/physical as well as a social and cultural world. It also refers to how an autonomous agent acts upon these experiences via different means of dynamical action-perception loops that subsequently emerge into different kinds of embodied action patterns which create and maintain the embodied agent’s own understanding and meaningfulness ( Lindblom, forthcoming ).

Embodied interaction: The concept embodied interaction is concerned with the phenomenological aspects of interaction ( Hartson & Pyla, 2012 ).

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