Using the interaction rhythm as a natural reinforcement signal for social robots: a matter of belief
In this paper, we present the results of a pilot study of a human robot interaction experiment where the rhythm of the interaction is used as a reinforcement signal to learn sensorimotor associations. The algorithm uses breaks and variations in the rhythm at which the human is producing actions. The concept is based on the hypothesis that a constant rhythm is an intrinsic property of a positive interaction whereas a break reflects a negative event. Subjects from various backgrounds interacted with a NAO robot where they had to teach the robot to mirror their actions by learning the correct sensorimotor associations. The results show that in order for the rhythm to be a useful reinforcement signal, the subjects have to be convinced that the robot is an agent with which they can act naturally, using their voice and facial expressions as cues to help it understand the correct behaviour to learn. When the subjects do behave naturally, the rhythm and its variations truly reflects how well the interaction is going and helps the robot learn efficiently. These results mean that non-expert users can interact naturally and fruitfully with an autonomous robot if the interaction is believed to be natural, without any technical knowledge of the cognitive capacities of the robot.