I Reach Faster When I See You Look: Gaze Effects in Human-Human and Human-Robot Face-to-Face Cooperation

Front Neurorobot. 2012 May 3;6:3. doi: 10.3389/fnbot.2012.00003. eCollection 2012.


Human-human interaction in natural environments relies on a variety of perceptual cues. Humanoid robots are becoming increasingly refined in their sensorimotor capabilities, and thus should now be able to manipulate and exploit these social cues in cooperation with their human partners. Previous studies have demonstrated that people follow human and robot gaze, and that it can help them to cope with spatially ambiguous language. Our goal is to extend these findings into the domain of action, to determine how human and robot gaze can influence the speed and accuracy of human action. We report on results from a human-human cooperation experiment demonstrating that an agent's vision of her/his partner's gaze can significantly improve that agent's performance in a cooperative task. We then implement a heuristic capability to generate such gaze cues by a humanoid robot that engages in the same cooperative interaction. The subsequent human-robot experiments demonstrate that a human agent can indeed exploit the predictive gaze of their robot partner in a cooperative task. This allows us to render the humanoid robot more human-like in its ability to communicate with humans. The long term objectives of the work are thus to identify social cooperation cues, and to validate their pertinence through implementation in a cooperative robot. The current research provides the robot with the capability to produce appropriate speech and gaze cues in the context of human-robot cooperation tasks. Gaze is manipulated in three conditions: Full gaze (coordinated eye and head), eyes hidden with sunglasses, and head fixed. We demonstrate the pertinence of these cues in terms of statistical measures of action times for humans in the context of a cooperative task, as gaze significantly facilitates cooperation as measured by human response times.

Keywords: cooperation; gaze; human–human interaction; human–robot interaction.