PhD Defense: Toward Dialogue and Reasoning Mechanisms to Enable More Natural and Socially-Appropriate Human-Robot Interactions

September 16, 2015
1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Halligan 102
Speaker: Gordon Briggs, Tufts University


When humans communicate with one another they utilize a variety of subtle linguistic cues that robots need to understand and reciprocate in order to achieve more natural and effective collaborative interactions with humans. We begin by presenting a simple human-robot interaction scenario and show that appropriate behavior by the robot requires the ability to explicitly reason about a variety of social and introspective factors that include (but are not necessarily limited to): the literal and non-literal intent of utterances, the knowledge and capability of the robot, social roles and relationships, goal priority and timing, and both norms of moral and social (e.g. politeness) varieties. Many current natural language (NL) systems used in human-robot interaction are unable modulate NL interactions appropriately given these considerations. Given this need, we present a novel NL understanding and generation architecture for robotic agents that provides a frame-work to achieve these desired capabilities. We begin by presenting how this architecture implements both pragmatic reasoning and reasoning regarding the belief states of interlocutors. We then show how this architecture can be utilized to both understand and appropriately deploy certain sentential adverbial modifiers, which enhance the informativeness and naturalness of natural language interactions. We also show how the architecture can not only understand non-literal requests, but also appropriately generate non-literal requests based on social context. Next, we demonstrate how the NL architecture is also able to generate responses to both literal and non-literal requests that conform to human sociolinguistic preferences.