So, Where’s My Robot?

Thoughts on Social Machine Learning

Timing, Rhythm, and Dancing Robots

A little late due to my brief hiatus in Brazil, but the recent Keepon YouTube craze has reminded me to post about my favorite papers at HRI 2007 — all related to the importance of timing and rhythm in social robots.



M.P. Michalowski, S. Sabanovic, H. Kozima, “A dancing robot for rhythmic social interaction.” This work is motivated by the observation that timing and rhythm is a fundamental aspect of social interaction. While the field tends to focus on dialog or gestures or the content of interaction, this work aims to understand how robots can get the underlying timing of social interaction right. To test these ideas, they are working with the robot Keepon, and giving it the ability to dance. Looking at, for example, when Keepon is not dancing to the beat of the music, whether kids follow the beat of the music or the beat of Keepon in a social interaction.

Recently Marek’s video got to the front page of YouTube, was a big hit, and got tons of response videos. – Peoplelovedancingrobots

Guy Hoffman and Cynthia Breazeal, “Effects of Anticipatory Action on Human-Robot Teamwork: Efficiency, Fluency, and Perception of Team.” This is another unique perspective on social robots, and was the best student paper. It’s inspired by the idea that two people working together on a task get better with practice. The team speeds up as the timing of the joint activity is learned and each partner specializes their role. I think this is interesting work because people don’t often think about the behavior of a robot needing practice. It’s programmed and it’s done. But when we’re talking about Human-Robot Interaction and joint activity, the concept of practice and learning to anticipate the partner’s actions becomes fundamentally important.

Gil Weinberg and Scott Driscoll, “The Interactive Robotic Percussionist: New Developments in Form, Mechanics, Perception, and Interaction Design.” And finally, I thought that Halie robot was among the best work presented at HRI. This project is about machine listening, the robot has a single arm for playing the drums, and is able to listen to the drumming of a partner and play along. Like the above papers, this work acknowledges that much of the intelligence of social robots is in the timing of the interaction and anticipating your partner. Music is a prime example where, with bad timing, everything breaks down. But this concept of timing and rhythm transfers to all forms of social interaction.

April 14th, 2007 Posted by | Conferences, Fun | no comments

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