Efficient human-robot interaction: when should a robot take initiative during collaboration?

J. Baraglia, M. Cakmak, Y. Nagai, R. P. N. Rao, and M. Asada, “Efficient human-robot interaction: when should a robot take initiative during collaboration?,” International Journal on Robotics Research (IJRR), vol. 36, no. 5-7, pp. 563–579, Feb. 2017, doi: 10.1177/0278364916688253.


The promise of robots assisting humans in everyday tasks has led to a variety of research questions and challenges in human-robot collaboration. Here, we address the question of whether and when a robot should take initiative during joint human-robot task execution. We designed a robotic system capable of autonomously performing table-top manipulation tasks while monitoring the environmental state. Our system is able to predict future environmental states and the robot’s actions to reach them using a dynamic Bayesian network. To evaluate our system, we implemented three different initiative conditions to trigger the robot’s actions. Human-initiated help gives control of the robot action timing to the user; robot-initiated reactive help triggers robot assistance when it detects that the human needs help; robot-initiated proactive help makes the robot help whenever it can. We performed a user study (N=18) to compare the trigger mechanisms in terms of quality of interaction, system performance and perceived sociality of the robot. We found that people collaborate best with a proactive robot, yielding better team fluency and high subjective ratings. However, they prefer having control of when the robot should help, rather than working with a reactive robot that only helps when needed. We also found that participants gazed at the robot’s face more during the human-initiated help compared to the other conditions. This shows that asking for the robot’s help may lead to a more “social” interaction, without improving the quality of interaction or the system performance.

BibTeX Entry

  title = {Efficient human-robot interaction: when should a robot take initiative during collaboration?},
  author = {Baraglia, Jimmy and Cakmak, Maya and Nagai, Yukie and Rao, Rajesh P.N. and Asada, Minoru},
  year = {2017},
  month = feb,
  journal = {International Journal on Robotics Research (IJRR)},
  volume = {36},
  number = {5-7},
  pages = {563--579},
  doi = {10.1177/0278364916688253},
  type = {journal}