That and There: Judging the Intent of Pointing Actions with Robotic Arms
Collaborative robotics requires effective communication between a robot and a human partner. This work proposes a set of interpretive principles for how a robotic arm can use pointing actions to communicate task information to people by extending existing models from the related literature. These principles are evaluated through studies where English-speaking human subjects view animations of simulated robots instructing pick-and-place tasks. The evaluation distinguishes two classes of pointing actions that arise in pick-and-place tasks: referential pointing (identifying objects) and locating pointing (identifying locations). The study indicates that human subjects show greater flexibility in interpreting the intent of referential pointing compared to locating pointing, which needs to be more deliberate. The results also demonstrate the effects of variation in the environment and task context on the interpretation of pointing. Our corpus, experiments and design principles advance models of context, common sense reasoning and communication in embodied communication.