Human Perception of Intrinsically Motivated Autonomy in Human-Robot Interaction

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A challenge in using robots in human-inhabited environments is to design behavior that is engaging, yet robust to the perturbations induced by human interaction. Our idea is to imbue the robot with intrinsic motivation (IM) so that it can handle new situations and appears as a genuine social other to humans and thus be of more interest to a human interaction partner. Human-robot interaction (HRI) experiments mainly focus on scripted or teleoperated robots, that mimic characteristics such as IM to control isolated behavior factors. This article presents a “robotologist” study design that allows comparing autonomously generated behaviors with each other, and, for the first time, evaluates the human perception of IM-based generated behavior in robots. We conducted a within-subjects user study (N=24) where participants interacted with a fully autonomous Sphero BB8 robot with different behavioral regimes: one realizing an adaptive, intrinsically motivated behavior and the other being reactive, but not adaptive. The robot and its behaviors are intentionally kept minimal to concentrate on the effect induced by IM. A quantitative analysis of post-interaction questionnaires showed a significantly higher perception of the dimension “Warmth” compared to the reactive baseline behavior. Warmth is considered a primary dimension for social attitude formation in human social cognition. A human perceived as warm (friendly, trustworthy) experiences more positive social interactions.