In modern Human-Robot Interaction, much thought has been given to accessibility regarding robotic locomotion, specifically the enhancement of awareness and lowering of cognitive load. On the other hand, with social Human-Robot Interaction considered, published research is far sparser given that the problem is less explored than pathfinding and locomotion.
This thesis studies how one can endow a robot with affective perception for social awareness in verbal and non-verbal communication. This is possible by the creation of a Human-Robot Interaction framework which abstracts machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies which allow for further accessibility to non-technical users compared to the current State-of-the-Art in the field. These studies thus initially focus on individual robotic abilities in the verbal, non-verbal and multimodality domains. Multimodality studies show that late data fusion of image and sound can improve environment recognition, and similarly that late fusion of Leap Motion Controller and image data can improve sign language recognition ability. To alleviate several of the open issues currently faced by researchers in the field, guidelines are reviewed from the relevant literature and met by the design and structure of the framework that this thesis ultimately presents.
The framework recognises a user's request for a task through a chatbot-like architecture. Through research in this thesis that recognises human data augmentation (paraphrasing) and subsequent classification via language transformers, the robot's more advanced Natural Language Processing abilities allow for a wider range of recognised inputs. That is, as examples show, phrases that could be expected to be uttered during a natural human-human interaction are easily recognised by the robot. This allows for accessibility to robotics without the need to physically interact with a computer or write any code, with only the ability of natural interaction (an ability which most humans have) required for access to all the modular machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies embedded within the architecture.
Following the research on individual abilities, this thesis then unifies all of the technologies into a deliberative interaction framework, wherein abilities are accessed from long-term memory modules and short-term memory information such as the user's tasks, sensor data, retrieved models, and finally output information. In addition, algorithms for model improvement are also explored, such as through transfer learning and synthetic data augmentation and so the framework performs autonomous learning to these extents to constantly improve its learning abilities. It is found that transfer learning between electroencephalographic and electromyographic biological signals improves the classification of one another given their slight physical similarities. Transfer learning also aids in environment recognition, when transferring knowledge from virtual environments to the real world. In another example of non-verbal communication, it is found that learning from a scarce dataset of American Sign Language for recognition can be improved by multi-modality transfer learning from hand features and images taken from a larger British Sign Language dataset. Data augmentation is shown to aid in electroencephalographic signal classification by learning from synthetic signals generated by a GPT-2 transformer model, and, in addition, augmenting training with synthetic data also shows improvements when performing speaker recognition from human speech.
Given the importance of platform independence due to the growing range of available consumer robots, four use cases are detailed, and examples of behaviour are given by the Pepper, Nao, and Romeo robots as well as a computer terminal. The use cases involve a user requesting their electroencephalographic brainwave data to be classified by simply asking the robot whether or not they are concentrating. In a subsequent use case, the user asks if a given text is positive or negative, to which the robot correctly recognises the task of natural language processing at hand and then classifies the text, this is output and the physical robots react accordingly by showing emotion. The third use case has a request for sign language recognition, to which the robot recognises and thus switches from listening to watching the user communicate with them. The final use case focuses on a request for environment recognition, which has the robot perform multimodality recognition of its surroundings and note them accordingly.
The results presented by this thesis show that several of the open issues in the field are alleviated through the technologies within, structuring of, and examples of interaction with the framework. The results also show the achievement of the three main goals set out by the research questions; the endowment of a robot with affective perception and social awareness for verbal and non-verbal communication, whether we can create a Human-Robot Interaction framework to abstract machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies which allow for the accessibility of non-technical users, and, as previously noted, which current issues in the field can be alleviated by the framework presented and to what extent.