Communicative Robot Learning

Human-in-the-loop robot learning with augemented reality and haptics

For robots to seamlessly interact with humans, we first need to make sure that humans and robots understand one another. Diverse algorithms have been developed to enable robots to learn from humans (i.e., transferring information from humans to robots). In parallel, visual, haptic, and auditory communication interfaces have been designed to convey the robot’s internal state to the human (i.e., transferring information from robots to humans). Prior research often separates these two directions of information transfer, and focuses primarily on either learning algorithms or communication interfaces. By contrast, in this review we take an interdisciplinary approach to identify common themes and emerging trends that close the loop between learning and communication. Specifically, we survey state-of-the-art methods and outcomes for communicating a robot’s learning back to the human teacher during human-robot interaction. This discussion connects human-in-the-loop learning methods and explainable robot learning with multimodal feedback systems and measures of human-robot interaction.

Closing the loop with learning and communication during human-robot interaction. (Left) Example problem setting where a human teaches the robot arm to assemble chairs. (Right) Outline of our review paper.

We find that — when learning and communication are developed together — the resulting closed-loop system can lead to improved human teaching, increased human trust, and human-robot co-adaptation. The paper includes a perspective on several of the interdisciplinary research themes and open questions that could advance how future robots communicate their learning to everyday operators. Finally, we implement a selection of the reviewed methods in a case study where participants kinesthetically teach a robot arm. This case study documents and tests an integrated approach for learning in ways that can be communicated, conveying this learning across multimodal interfaces, and measuring the resulting changes in human and robot behavior.