While social robots are being produced for a variety of application domains, they still lack many of the abilities that enable people to interact with more than one person simultaneously. For example, people easily adapt to variations in their social context when the members of a conversation change. Humans can also recognize social norms that emerge in crowded environments. As robots become more capable in many domains, like education, health, and entertainment, these type of abilities become essential for them to integrate with and operate among people.
My research agenda aims to fill this gap by providing robots with the necessary capabilities to interact with and around multiple individuals. My efforts focus on two complementary research directions to enable autonomy in these scenarios and to make robots better social actors. On the one hand, my work aims to make robot perception cognizant of social behavior in order to overcome the inherent perception challenges of these interactions. On the other, I create systems to study the intricacies of multi-party encounters with robots and explore social group phenomena in the context of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).
In this talk, I will show how these two research directions can help robots better understand human spatial behavior during group conversations. This capability improves robots’ human awareness as well as their communication skills, e.g., by enabling them to cooperate to sustain group spatial arrangements. As part of this talk, I will also describe several experimental methods that we designed to study human spatial behavior in HRI. These methods can be leveraged to further explore other interesting group phenomena with social robots.
Marynel Vázquez is a Ph.D. candidate working with Aaron Steinfeld and Scott E. Hudson in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research crosses the boundaries between Human-Computer and Human-Robot Interaction to make interactive computing technologies meaningful, intuitive, and appropriate for users. Marynel was born in Venezuela, received her bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering from Universidad Simón Bolívar in 2008, and then obtained her M.S. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2013. She is an active collaborator of Disney Research, and has been recognized for her scholarly achievements with scholarships from Apple and Google.