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Towards Seamless Human-Robot Handovers

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2013 by Kyle Strabala, Min Kyung Lee, Anca Dragan, Jodi Forlizzi, Siddhartha Srinivasa, Maya Cakmak, Vincenzo Micelli

A handover is a complex collaboration, where actors coordinate in time and space to transfer control of an object. This coordination comprises two processes: the physical process of moving to get close enough to transfer the object, and the cognitive process of exchanging information to guide the transfer. Despite this complexity, we humans are capable of performing handovers seamlessly in a wide variety of situations, even when unexpected. This suggests a common procedure that guides all handover interactions. Our goal is to codify that procedure. To that end, we first study how people hand objects to each other in order to understand their coordination process and the signals and cues that they use and observe with their partners. Based on these studies, we propose a coordination structure for human-robot handovers that considers the physical and social-cognitive aspects of the interaction separately. This handover structure describes how people approach, reach out their hands, and transfer objects while simultaneously coordinating the what, when, and where of handovers: to agree that the handover will happen (and with what object), to establish the timing of the handover, and to decide the configuration at which the handover will occur. We experimentally evaluate human-robot handover behaviors that exploit this structure, and offer design implications for seamless human-robot handover interactions.