Don’t step on my heels: Scientists teach robots how to respect personal space

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Robots have a lot to learn about humans, including how to respect their personal space. Scientists at the Institute of Automatics of the National University of San Juan in Argentina are giving mobile robots a crash course in avoiding collisions with humans.

The researchers published their methods in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica (JAS), a joint publication of the IEEE and Chinese Association of Automation.

"Humans respect social zones during different kind[s] of interactions," wrote Daniel Herrera, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Automatics of the National University of San Juan and an author on the study. He notes how the 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."

Using impedance control, the 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 analyzing 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," wrote 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."

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Fulltext of the paper is available: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=8039027

IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica (JAS) is a joint publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc (IEEE) and the Chinese Association of Automation. The objective of JAS is high quality and rapid publication of articles, with a strong focus on new trends, original theoretical and experimental research and developments, emerging technologies, and industrial standards in automation. The coverage of JAS includes but is not limited to: Automatic control,Artificial intelligence and intelligent control, Systems theory and engineering, Pattern recognition and intelligent systems, Automation engineering and applications, Information processing and information systems, Network based automation, Robotics, Computer-aided technologies for automation systems, Sensing and measurement, Navigation, guidance, and control. JAS is indexed by IEEE, ESCI, EI, Inspec, Scopus, SCImago, CSCD, CNKI. We are pleased to announce the new 2016 CiteScore (released by Elsevier) is 2.16, ranking 26% among 211 publications in Control and System Engineering category.

To learn more about JAS, please visit: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=6570654

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