For a realistic and durable human-robot interaction, social robots need human-friendly appearances, communications and cognitive skills.
Co-written by: Evgenios Vlachos, PhD, Aalborg University & Simren S. Dhaliwal, Senior Consultant, KPMG NewTech
Communication between humans can be difficult enough to master, but making a social robot join the conversation brings a whole new range of challenges to the table. Social robots are able to interact and communicate with humans in a human-like manner, all while respecting the existing social and cultural norms of its environment.
Take Pepper, the social human-shaped robot from SoftBank Robotics. A typical example of a robot, designed to be a genuine day-to-day companion. You can compose music with it, let it play with your kids or use it as your wedding planner. Pepper's number one quality is the ability to perceive emotions and adapt its behavior to the mood of its human counterpart.
Applying social rules
When interacting with such robots we as humans apply social rules, and act on inherited behavioral guidelines, expecting that the robots will have the ability to understand, and follow them. We have adjusted our space, actions and performed tasks to what we are physically capable and incapable of.
In the same way, the features of a social robot should fit within these predetermined boundaries when it is beneficial for the user or for completing a task. The robot should not fall over when it is practicing dance moves with you or talk with a loud angry voice when reading a lullaby for your kids in the evening.
A human-friendly appearance
For a realistic and durable human-robot interaction (HRI), social robots should incorporate human-friendly appearances, communication functions, user-behavior modeling techniques and cognitive skills, as well as the common characteristics of industrial robots, namely: Accuracy, carrying capacity, durability, repeatability, safety and speed.
The variety of social robots and the number of interfaces for HRI have grown rapidly in recent years. More than ever, we have to investigate which robot types can best satisfy the requirements of a given task. Tasks for social robots are usually related to healthcare, wellness, assistance, entertainment, companionship, and education. Some examples include the android Geminoid-DK taking up the role of a university lecturer, the teleoperated humanoid (Telenoid) facilitating communication with elderly people suffering from dementia and the humanoid robot (Kaspar) promoting cooperative play among children with autism. Social robots may also have a zoomorphic (animal-like) appearance, like Sony’s robot dog AIBO, or even a mechanoid (machine-like form like Cynthia Breazeal’s Jibo, depending on what suites the task it was created to solve.
Apart from very few occasions where one can encounter a social robot “in the wild”, such as the use of Pepper at Mizuho Bank in Japan, most social robots are still confined to laboratories, research facilities, nursing homes and museums.
Key considerations when communicating with robots
Until social robots become a naturally integrated part of our society, here are some key considerations to keep in mind when communicating with such robots – equally critical for those considering buying or building them:
© 2017 KPMG P/S, a Danish limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.