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Situation-specific social cues and interactions

People carry their expectations about interaction from human interaction into human-robot interaction, so the design of robot activities has to take conventional social cues and interactional structures into account. We study conversational openings and the initiation of interaction, activity-specific use of emotional expression, and role-specific speech and voice characteristics, along with other social cues. 



Robots to support creativity and learning

Social environments are important scaffolds for human learning and development. One emerging tool in such environments are social robots. We are studying and developing capabilities for robots to support human learning, among children as well as adults, including high level cognitive skills such as creative thinking and foreign language learning. This research also explores social factors like embodiment, multi-modality, social presence, empathy and emotional engagement, to support holistic human development. Our designs take into consideration the special characteristics of various populations, such as autistic children, as well as elements related to cultural diversity.

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Social niches and field deployments of robots

To be beneficial, robots should be placed in appropriate social niches. We use design research as well as data-driven and observational methods to identify such niches for robots and develop fitting robot behaviors. We also study robots in diverse contexts to explore how people react to and incorporate robots in their daily lives. Current deployments through which we explore robot use are an inter generational daycare, university dorms, schools, and public spaces.



Robot Persuasiveness and Credibility

How can a robot’s verbal and non-verbal behavior make it more persuasive and credible in the social role it is in? Taking human interaction as a starting point, we explore functional effects of speech characteristics. These include prosodic delivery (speech melody, duration), the effects of timing and responsivity during turn-taking, and robotic displays of context awareness, as well as voice characteristics and non-verbal vocal behaviors that can help make the robot more credible.

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The Integration of Multimodal Cues: Speech and Non-Verbal Robot Behavior

Multimodal action and interaction poses considerable challenges concerning the timing between an actor’s behaviors, and especially the timing of speech plays a special role since people bring in expectations from conversational interaction. We are currently investigating how the different expressive features of a robot can be coordinated in order to convey a single coherent message in all modalities, particularly in response to multimodal cues of human interaction partners.