Research on humanoid robots has produced various uses for their body properties in communication. In particular, mutual relationships of body movements between a robot and a human are considered to be important for smooth and natural communication, as they are in human-human communication. We have developed a semi-autonomous humanoid robot system that is capable of cooperative body movements with humans using environment-based sensors and switching communicative units. Concretely, this system realizes natural communication by using typical behaviors such as: "nodding," "eye-contact," "face-to-face," etc. It is important to note that the robot parts are NOT operated directly; only the communicative units in the robot system are switched. We conducted an experiment using the mentioned robot system and verified the importance of cooperative behaviors in a route-guidance situation where a human gives directions to the robot. The task requires a human participant (called the "speaker") to teach a route to a "hearer" that is (1) a human, (2) a developed robot that performs cooperative movements, and (3) a robot that does not move at all. This experiment is subjectively evaluated through a questionnaire and an analysis of body movements using three-dimensional data from a motion capture system. The results indicate that the cooperative body movements greatly enhance the emotional impressions of human speakers in a route-guidance situation. We believe these results will allow us to develop interactive humanoid robots that sociably communicate with humans.
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