CoBot Studio VR: A Virtual Reality Game Environment for Transdisciplinary Research on Interpretability and Trust in Human-Robot Collaboration Download PDF

15 Feb 2021, 23:51 (edited 22 Mar 2021)HRI 2021I Workshop VAM-HRI SubmissionReaders: Everyone
  • Keywords: Human-robot collaboration, industry, virtual reality, interpretability, intention signaling, trust, multimodal communication, digital twin
  • Abstract: With the rise of collaborative robots (cobots) in industrial workplaces, designing these robots to meet the needs of their human co-workers is becoming increasingly important. Psychological theories and recent results from HRI research suggest interpretability and predictability of cobot behavior as key factors for the establishment of trust and collaborative task success. However, it is not yet clear which robotic intention signals are easily interpretable for whom and how they might impact user experience in varying situations. Therefore, the transdisciplinary team of the research project CoBot Studio created an innovative virtual reality (VR) environment in which the effectiveness of different light- and motion-based cobot signals can be systematically evaluated (i) in various collaborative minigames, (ii) without safety concerns, (iii) under randomized controlled conditions, and (iiii) without the need to make actual hardware adjustments to a robot. This paper introduces functionalities and the system architecture of the highly versatile CoBot Studio research environment, presents an initial application, and discusses methodological benefits of using immersive VR games for research into human-robot collaboration.
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  • Broader Impacts: The rising level of automation and digitization, sweeping through almost all areas of life, impacts the future of work. Robots, just like other machines and technological advancements, will constitute an even more integral part of many work environments than today. As close collaborations between humans and robots increase, the latter must be programmed to be easily understandable, predictable and thus trustworthy for people. To make this a reality, transdisciplinary research is needed to develop empirically driven principles for user-friendly cobot design. With this vision in focus, CoBot Studio serves as an immersive virtual reality research environment that allows for playful simulation of collaborative scenarios with industrial cobots. It is well suited for user-centered evaluations of intention signals and the study of trust formation in human-robot teams. However, due to the highly versatile architecture of CoBot Studio, it is easily conceivable that also other topics of interest to the HRI research community (e.g., interaction with social robots, mind perception, proxemics) could be studied in a similar research environment.
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