HRI2012 Reflections

Highlights of the recent Human-Robot Interaction conference in Boston for me included meeting many great researchers and having some of my basic approaches and assumptions validated. In no particular order, I’ve decided to capture some of my observations.

Hiroshi Ishiguro was on the panel on telepresence (with Leila Takayama from Willow Garage, Peter Vicars from vGo and Stephen Von Rump from Giraff). Ishiguro is very interested in exploring the least amount of personality and embodiment that is needed for telepresence, which is almost the exact opposite approach to his famous android clones. The elfoid is also perhaps being used as an android phone (pun intended?).

Solace Shen from University of Washington delivered the best conference paper “Do People Hold a Humanoid Robot Morally Accountable For The Harm It Causes?” by Peter H. Kahn Jr., Takayuki Kanda, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Brian T. Gill, Jolina H. Ruckert, Solace Shen, Heather E. Gary, Aimee L. Reichert, Nathan G. Freier, Rachel L. Severson. (Also won the informal award for most number of co-authors.) The University of Washington is one of the few locations that puts a focus on either cultural or ethical issues with robot interaction.

Other papers I really liked included “Consistency in Physical and On-screen Action Improves Perceptions of Telepresence Robots” by David Sirkin & Wendy Ju from Stanford, alongside works on proxemics by others including, Michael Gielniak & Andrea L. Thomaz.

In fact, Georgia Institute of Technology had many strong papers/presenters. “Trajectories and Keyframes for Kinesthetic Teaching: A Human Robot Interaction Perspective” by Baris Akgun, Maya Cakmak, Jae Wook Yoo, Andrea Lockerd Thomaz was solid pragmatic work for robot skill learning. “The Domesticated Robot: Design Guidelines for Assisting Older Adults to Age in Place” by Jenay M. Beeer, Cory-Ann Smarr, Tiffany L. Chen, Akanksha Prakash, Tracy L. Mitzner, Charles C. Kemp, Wendy A. Rogers, provided rich data for designing robots that are useful and acceptable in the home.

In fact, all the papers in that particular session chaired by Astrid Weiss, ‘Living and Working with Service Robots’, involved deep, rich or longitudinal studies. (Someone remarked to me how much they appreciated robot-interaction studies that lasted longer than 10 minutes.) I’m looking forward to more from Caroline Pantofaru’s people-centred design approach to robot house organizing and Selma Sabanovic’s creative work on domestic robot embodiment.

There were also good videos and discussions about the role of robots in STEM from Ross Mead (BotBall), Andrew Stout (Aldebaran Nao) and David Robert & Cynthia Brezeal’s paper “Blended Reality Characters”, which demonstrated the Gray Walter inspired alphabet block robot that transitions between the floor area and the large screen via a turtlebot hutch.

The first day workshop on gaze lead by Bilge Mutlu would have been very interesting, given my film making and cultural theory background. However, I did a ROS/rosbridge workshop and drove a turtlebot around. This promises to be a handy skill if the robot dance project I’m collaborating on moves in a more robotic direction (pun intended).

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