In this paper, we propose adding the traditional Japanese nodding behavior to the repertoire of social movements to be used in the context of human–robot interaction. Our approach is motivated by the notion that in many cultures, trust-building can be boosted by small body gestures. We discuss the integration of a robot capable of such movements within CRECA, our context-respectful counseling agent. The frequent nodding called “unazuki” in Japan, often accompanying the “un-un” sound (meaning “I agree”) of Japanese onomatopoeia, underlines empathy and embodies unconditioned approval. We argue that “unazuki” creates more empathy and promotes longer conversation between the robotic counsellor and people. We set up an experiment involving ten subjects to verify these effects. Our quantitative evaluation is based on the classic metrics of utterance, adapted to support the Japanese language. Interactions featuring “unazuki” showed higher value of this metrics. Moreover, subjects assessed the counselling robot’s trustworthiness and kindness as “very high” (Likert scale: 5.5 versus 3—4.5) showing the effect of social gestures in promoting empathetic dialogue to general people including the younger generation. Our findings support the importance of social movements when using robotized agents as a therapeutic tool aimed at improving emotional state and social interactions, with unambiguous evidence that embodiment can have a positive impact that warrants further exploration. The 3D printable design of our robot supports creating culture-specific libraries of social movements, adapting the gestural repertoire to different human cultures.
Journal of Reliable Intelligent Environments – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 4, 2020