Human-Robot Interaction: The Role of Presence and Gaze


  • Kassandra Friebe Comenius University in Bratislava



The way a robot is presented has several effects on human-robot interaction (HRI). In particular, research suggests that robots that are copresent in the same environment are evaluated more positively and provide better interaction outcomes than robots presented via a screen [1]. However, how the physical presence of a robot affects simple social attention mechanisms has not been thoroughly investigated. Gaze cueing [2], the processs of using someone else's eye movement as information of what they are attending and shifting one's own attention accordingly, is a well-studied phenomenon in human-human interaction and is beginning to be of interest to the HRI community [3]. The present work aims to establish the link between gaze cueing and physical presence in HRI and to contribute to filling the current research gap.


We conducted an experiment (N = 42) to investigate the influence of the physical presence of a robot and its gaze behavior on the reaction time of subjects in a gaze cueing paradigm. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two robot presence conditions (copresent robot: physically present iCub robot; virtual agent: screen version of the same robot) and were asked to locate the appearance of a target stimulus that was either congruent or incongruent to the location cued by the robot's gaze. After the experiment participants rated their perception of the robot by judging its anthropomorphism, animacy and likeability.


Participants showed a consistent gaze cueing effect irrespective of the robot condition they were assigned to. Against our hypothesis, the way the robot was presented had no effect on the strength of this effect. Additionally, in contrast to findings from previous studies, no differential effect of robot presence on ratings of the robot could be found. The results suggest that gaze cueing as a basal phenomenon of human social cognition can also be found in interactions with humanoid robots. Against theoretical assumptions, the different ways of presenting the robot did not seem to alter the strength of the gaze cueing effect. Together our results implicate that simple social HRI can be performed as well with a copresent robot as with its virtual equivalent, providing opportunities to make HRI research and development more accessible.


[1] J. Li, “The benefit of being physically present: A survey of experimental works comparing copresent robots, telepresent robots and virtual agents,” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, vol. 77, pp. 23–37, 2015.

[2] A. Frischen, A. P. Bayliss, and S. P. Tipper, “Gaze cueing of attention: Visual attention, social cognition, and individual differences.,” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 133, no. 4, pp. 694–724, 2007.

[3] E. Wiese, P. P. Weis, and D. M. Lofaro, “Embodied social robots trigger gaze following in real-time HRI,” 2018 15th International Conference on Ubiquitous Robots (UR), 2018.