Researchers develop robot with better people skills

Researchers develop robot with better people skills
Robots that act and behave like human beings are coming closer to reality, a trend indicated by recent research.

Researchers are programming robots to communicate with people using human-like body language and cues.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia enlisted the help of a human-friendly robot named Charlie to study the simple task of handing an object to a person.

"We hand things to other people multiple times a day and we do it seamlessly," said AJung Moon, a PhD student in the university's 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."

Past research has shown that people have difficulty figuring out when to reach out and take an object from a robot because robots fail to provide appropriate nonverbal cues.

AJung 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.

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 recognise," said AJung. "This is key to interacting with a robot in a safe and friendly manner."

The paper based on the work was declared the best paper at this year's International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction held in in Bielefeld, Germany.

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