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Emotions in Robots: Embodied Interaction in Social and Non-Social Environments

Journal article
Authors Robert Lowe
Published in Multimodal Technologies and Interaction
Volume 3
Issue 3
Pages 1-4
ISSN 2414-4088
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 1-4
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.3390/mti3030053
Keywords Emotions, Robotics, Embodied Interaction
Subject categories Other Engineering and Technologies, Psychology, Computer and Information Science

Abstract

Whether they are considered discrete or dimensional, emotions are ’embodied’ phenomena. The embodied agent does not play a merely passive role in emotion processing. Rather, the body itself, in interaction with its external environment, influences how real/imagined, environmental stimuli are perceived and acted upon. The body behaviorally orients and acts, and internally physiologically ‘prepares’ in relation to its external environment [1]. Today, we see a shift towards robots that need to interact in relation to the social and emotional aspects of human environments. There are at least two areas in which ‘embodied’ implementations of emotional processes can enhance robotic performance in human environments: (i) improved human-inter-actor experience and (ii) facilitated competence. The mode of embodiment of the emotion-guided robot entails not only its physical dimension regarding how and what it senses and appears to human inter-actors, but also its internal homeostatic aspects that regulate its goals and those very same interactions. The increased emphasis over the past two decades in the area of social and non-social robotics on emotional activity is a testimony to its perceived importance within the robotics community. The embodied emotional activity in robots is perhaps most famously recognized in terms of emotion expression capabilities, above all with respect to facial expression [2,3]. The extent to which such robots socially appropriately express emotional or empathic states [3], e.g., according to underlying homeostatic computations [2], largely determines the extent to which the robots are positively received by their human inter-actors. Such aspects of embodiment to emotional activity in robots, including how emotions influence decision-making and aspects of functional (including non-social) interactive behavior, are often undervalued or at least sub-ordinated with respect to the expressive facets of emotional embodiment. The aforementioned role of homeostasis has been demonstrated to provide an important function for robots required to behave autonomously over unspecified durations, e.g., in not-well-understood, or otherwise inaccessible, environments [4,5,6,7,8,9,10]. This notion has more recently been extended to incorporate the notion of predictive regulation (or allostasis) [11,12] and has been considered with respect to artificial systems [13,14]. Providing the tools for robots to not just express but also interpret embodied emotional engagement, e.g., through the modality of tactile interaction [15,16,17], also provides an interesting area of relatively recent research. Robotic agents have also been used in clinical settings, e.g., to facilitate the development of autistic children for whom a robot, more predictable than a human, can provide a suitable interacting partner. The physical appearance, mode of embodied interaction, and environmental setting, all provide crucial elements in the emotional engagement that can ensue [18]. Even outside the clinical setting, robots designed to interact with humans over long periods, i.e., not just as care-givers or trainers, but as robotic companions, should engage with humans in ways that are functional, believable, and even creative [19].

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