Being Sensitive To Our Robots

As our technological achievements rush forward, more and more groups are working on robots that need to interact closely with us. The HRI (human-robot interaction) is an ongoing problem as most of us are keen to have likeable robot assistants even if it’s only a vacuum cleaner.

A new trick in the game has been written up by Sciutti et al in the International Journal of Social Robotics where they are proposing a technique that they call motor resonance (1). Now motor resonance was new to me and I was relieved to discover that it referred to the way mirror neurons work where we get fired up just watching an action taken by somebody else. Thus humans tend to do the same thing as other humans.

Apparently our EEG activity is modulated by noticing a robot action just as much as a human action. Hence, it seems that we should respond to our robot friend and take our cues in a similar manner to how we would respond to a person.

Thus as we spot the robot starting to take action, our mirror neuron system fires up and we respond in kind. So now we know how to behave around our humanoid robot, but how is it going to pick up the cues from us?

 I doubt if we’ll be happy to leave the robot entirely in charge, but maybe I’m wrong. As long as it responds to an imperious command from us, I suppose we’ll be content with being sensitive to our robots.

  1. Sciutti et al, Int. J. Soc. Robot, (2012), DOI 10.1007/s12369-012-0143-1

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