Volume 7, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1572-0373
  • E-ISSN: 1572-0381
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This paper reports our research efforts on social robots that recognize interpersonal relationships. These investigations are carried out by observing group behaviors while the robot interacts with people. Our humanoid robot interacts with children by speaking and making various gestures. It identifies individual children by using a wireless tag system, which helps to promote interaction such as the robot calling a child by name. Accordingly, the robot is capable of interacting with many children, causing spontaneous group behavior from the children around it. Here, group behavior is associated with social relationships among the children themselves. For example, a child may be accompanied by his or her friends and then play together with them. We propose the hypothesis that our interactive robot prompts a child’s friends to accompany him or her; thus, we can estimate their friendship by simply observing their accompanying behaviors.

We conducted a field experiment for two weeks in a Japanese elementary school to verify this hypothesis. In the experiment, two “Robovie” robots were placed where children could freely interact with them during recesses. As a result, we found that they mostly prompted friend-accompanying behavior. Moreover, we could estimate some of their friendly relationships, in particular among the children who often appeared around the robot. For example, we could estimate 5% of all friendships with 80% accuracy, and 15% of them with nearly 50% accuracy. Thus, this result basically supports our hypothesis on friendship estimation from an interactive humanoid robot. We believe that this ability to estimate human relationships is essential for robots to behave socially.


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