Many real-world applications require that robots handle the complexity of multi-party social encounters, e.g., delivery robots may need to navigate through crowds, robots in manufacturing settings may need to coordinate their actions with those of human coworkers, and robots in educational environments may help multiple people practice and improve their skills. How can we enable robots to effectively take part in these social interactions? At first glance, multi-party interactions may be seen as a trivial generalization of one-on-one human-robot interactions, suggesting no special consideration. Unfortunately, this approach is limited in practice because it ignores higher-order effects, like group factors, that often drive human behavior in multi-party Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).
In this talk, I will describe two research directions that we believe are important to advance multi-party HRI. One direction focuses on understanding group dynamics and social group phenomena from an experimental perspective. The other one focuses on leveraging graph state abstractions and structured, data-driven methods for reasoning about individual, interpersonal and group-level factors relevant to these interactions. Examples of these research directions include efforts to motivate prosocial human behavior in HRI, balance human participation in conversations, and improve spatial reasoning for robots in human environments. As part of this talk, I will also describe our recent efforts to scale HRI data collection for early system development and testing via online interactive surveys. We have begun to explore this idea in the context of social robot navigation but, thanks to advances in game development engines, it could be easily applied to other HRI application domains.
Marynel Vázquez is an Assistant Professor in Yale’s Computer Science Department, where she leads the Interactive Machines Group. Her research focuses on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), especially in multi-party and group settings. Marynel is a recipient of the 2022 NSF CAREER Award and two Amazon Research Awards. Her work has been recognized with nominations to Best Paper awards at HRI 2021, IROS 2018, and RO-MAN 2016, as well as a Best Student Paper award at RO-MAN 2022. Prior to Yale, Marynel was a Post-Doctoral Scholar at the Stanford Vision & Learning Lab and obtained her M.S. and Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, where she was a collaborator of Disney Research. Before then, she received her bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela.