Robots learn how to respect humans' personal space

Robots learn how to respect humans' personal space

Scientists are teaching mobile robots how to respect the personal space of humans beings and avoid collisions with them.

"Humans respect social zones during different kinds of interactions," according to Daniel Herrera, a postdoctoral researcher at the National University of San Juan in Argentina.

Specifics of a task and situation, as well as cultural expectations and personal preferences, influence the distance of social zones.

"When a robot follows a human as part of a formation, it is supposed that it must also respect these social zones to improve its social acceptance," said Herrera.

Using impedance control, researchers aimed to regulate the social dynamics between the robot's movements and the interactions of the robot's environment.

They did this by first analysing how a human leader and a human follower interact on a set track with well-defined borders.

The feedback humans use to adjust their behaviors - letting someone know they're following too closely, for example - was marked as social forces and treated as defined physical fields.

The human interactions (leading and following), including the estimated social forces, were fed to a mobile robot. The programmed robot then followed the human within the same defined borders, but without impeding on the social forces defined by the human interactions.

"Under the hypothesis that moving like human will be acceptable by humans, it is believed that the proposed control improves the social acceptance of the robot for this kind of interaction," said Herrera.

The researchers posit that robots are more likely to be accepted if they can be programmed to respect and respond like humans in social interactions.

In this experiment, the robot mimicked the following human, and avoided the leader's personal space.

"The results show that the robot is capable of emulating the previously identified impedance and, consequently, it is believed that the proposed control can improve the social acceptance by being able to imitate this human-human dynamic behavior," researchers said.

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