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A Model for Generating Socially-Appropriate Deictic Behaviors Towards People

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Pointing behaviors are essential in enabling social robots to communicate about a particular object, person, or space. Yet, pointing to a person can be considered rude in many cultures, and as robots collaborate with humans in increasingly diverse environments, they will need to effectively refer to people in a socially-appropriate way. We confirmed in an empirical study that although people would point precisely to an object to indicate where it is, they were reluctant to do so when pointing to another person. We propose a model for selecting utterances and pointing behaviors towards people in terms of a balance between understandability and social appropriateness. Calibrating our proposed model based on empirical human behavior, we developed a system able to autonomously select among six deictic behaviors and execute them on a humanoid robot. We evaluated the system in an experiment in a shopping mall, and the results show that the robot’s deictic behavior was perceived by both the listener and the referent as more polite, more natural, and better overall when using our model, as compared with a model considering understandability alone.

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  1. This paper is an extended version of our conference paper [1] with integrated technical details, additional discussions, expanded explanations, and supplementary analysis of the experiment.

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We would like to thank Satoshi Koizumi for facilitating the smooth operation of the experiments. This study was funded in part by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan and in part by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 25240042.

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Correspondence to Phoebe Liu.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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This research was conducted in compliance with the standards and regulations of our company’s ethical review board, which requires every experiment we conduct to be subject to a review and approval procedure according to strict ethical guidelines.

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Liu, P., Glas, D.F., Kanda, T. et al. A Model for Generating Socially-Appropriate Deictic Behaviors Towards People. Int J of Soc Robotics 9, 33–49 (2017).

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