Department of Psychology

International award for University's first Human-Robot interaction paper

Thu Apr 09 09:33:00 BST 2015

Researchers in the Department of Psychology CREATE laboratory have been awarded best paper for enabling experimental studies at the 2015 International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI 2015).

Professor Danaë Stanton Fraser and Dr Chris Bevan with Nao the robot at the 2015 International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction

— Professor Danaë Stanton Fraser and Dr Chris Bevan with Nao the robot at the 2015 International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.


Presented in Portland Oregon in March 2015, Dr Chris Bevan and Professor Danaë Stanton Fraser’s paper Shaking Hands and Cooperation in Tele-present Human-Robot Negotiation took a novel spin on how the symbolic act of two individuals shaking hands affects the outcome of a competitive negotiation, where one of the negotiators is provided with a tactical advantage that they could freely choose to exploit.

When two people meet face-to-face, it has been shown that the shaking of hands before negotiating increases the likelihood that a more powerful negotiator will choose not to exploit their counterpart as fully as they are able to, ultimately leading to a fairer outcome for all parties involved.

In their experiment, Dr Bevan and Professor Stanton Fraser designed a scenario whereby one of a pair of negotiators performed their role ‘tele-presently’, using a humanoid robot ‘Nao’ to represent their physical presence at the negotiating table.

Using the robot, the tele-present negotiator could see and speak to their partner (whilst themselves being potentially anywhere in the world). However, the other negotiator could only hear the voice of their ‘opponent’ through their robotic avatar, and were not able to see their true face.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that negotiating under such conditions would increase the likelihood that the distant negotiator - who could be thousands of miles away and is essentially hidden from view - would exploit this potential tactical advantage. This would then have a knock-on effect upon the degree to which both negotiators come to trust and cooperate with one another.

However, by representing the distant negotiator using a humanoid robot with limbs, the researchers were able to create a system that allowed the negotiators to shake hands even though they were in different locations. By using touch sensitive sensors in the robot’s hand, a ‘virtual’ handshake was designed that transmitted a signal when the robot’s hand was grasped, making a controller in the distant negotiator’s hand simultaneously vibrate, creating a sense of ‘ connectedness’ between the negotiators.

The results of the experiment showed that - as seen between people who negotiate face to face - the inclusion of this virtual handshake significantly increased the fairness of a negotiation held between one person and a robotic avatar that represented another person. Importantly, this effect held regardless of whether the more powerful negotiator was performing their role ‘behind’ the robot or not.

For robotics research, these results demonstrated the powerful pro-social effects of combining the symbolic act of shaking hands with the power of touch, and that manufacturers of robotics platforms should be mindful to incorporate the capability to support these phenomena in their designs.

This research was conducted as part of the Being There project, funded by the EPSRC under its IDEAS Factory Sandpits call on Digital Personhood (grant ref: EP/L00416X/1).

Held in Portland Oregon, HRI2015 is the leading conference in the field of human robot interaction. Only 5% of the accepted papers were nominated for an award, and only 3% won.