Can infants use robot gaze for object learning?
Previous research has shown that although infants follow the gaze direction of robots, robot gaze does not facilitate infants’ learning for objects. The present study examined whether robot gaze affects infants’ object learning when the gaze behavior was accompanied by verbalizations. Twelve-month-old infants were shown videos in which a robot with accompanying verbalizations gazed at an object. The results showed that infants not only followed the robot’s gaze direction but also preferentially attended to the cued object when the ostensive verbal signal was present. Moreover, infants showed enhanced processing of the cued object when ostensive and referential verbal signals were increasingly present. These effects were not observed when mere nonverbal sound stimuli instead of verbalizations were added. Taken together, our findings indicate that robot gaze accompanying verbalizations facilitates infants’ object learning, suggesting that verbalizations are important in the design of robot agents from which infants can learn.