Special Issue "Applications and Trends in Social Robotics"

A special issue of Electronics (ISSN 2079-9292). This special issue belongs to the section "Computer Science & Engineering".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 10 November 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. María Malfaz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Systems Engineering and Automation Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain
Interests: social robotics, human-robot interaction, decision-making, emotions
Dr. José Carlos Castillo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Systems Engineering and Automation Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain
Interests: social robotics; computer vision; perception; activity detection; human-robot interaction
Dr. Álvaro Castro
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Systems Engineering and Automation Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain
Interests: social robots; assistive robotics; human-robot interaction; autonomous robots; decision making; multimodal dialogue management; robot expressiveness; artificial emotions
Dr. Fernando Alonso
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Systems Engineering and Automation Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain
Interests: social robots, assistive robotics, human-robot interaction, multimodal dialogue management, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, machine learning

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Social robots are intended to coexist with humans and engage in relationships that lead them to a better quality of life. The success of these relationships relies on a positive perception of the robots that can be achieved by their behavior through AI, computational models, or robot embodiments. This Special Issue aims to foster the development of innovative ideas, novel applications and relevant studies that contribute to the integration of social robots in our daily society.  

The Special Issue welcomes original contributions describing technically rigorous scientific and philosophical advances in the area of social robotics and AI: innovative ideas and concepts, new discoveries and improvements, and novel applications on advances in the social robotics technologies.

In addition, a series of workshops associated to “The Eleventh International Conference on Social Robotics” will be held in Madrid, Spain, on 26-29 November 2019. The authors of the papers that will be presented at these workshops about related topics are invited to submit their extended versions to this Special Issue after the conference. Submitted papers should be extended to the size of regular research or review articles, with at least a 50% extension of new results.  

The topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Affective and cognitive sciences for socially interactive robots
  • Context awareness, expectation, and intention understanding
  • Control architectures for social robotics
  • Human augmentation, rehabilitation, and medical robots
  • Interaction and collaboration among robots, humans, and environments
  • Personal robots for the home
  • Robot applications in education, entertainment, and gaming
  • Robot ethics in human society
  • Robots that can adapt to different users
  • Robots to assist the elderly and persons with disabilities
  • Robots with personality
  • Safety in robots working in human spaces
  • Socially assistive robots to improve quality of life
  • Social acceptance and impact in the society
  • Socially appealing design methodologies
  • Real experiences with social robots
  • Assessing interaction in social robotics

Dr. María Malfaz
Dr. José Carlos Castillo
Dr. Álvaro Castro
Dr. Fernando Alonso
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Electronics is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Facial Emotion Recognition from an Unmanned Flying Social Robot for Home Care of Dependent People
Electronics 2021, 10(7), 868; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10070868 - 06 Apr 2021
Viewed by 510
Abstract
This work is part of an ongoing research project to develop an unmanned flying social robot to monitor dependants at home in order to detect the person’s state and bring the necessary assistance. In this sense, this paper focuses on the description of [...] Read more.
This work is part of an ongoing research project to develop an unmanned flying social robot to monitor dependants at home in order to detect the person’s state and bring the necessary assistance. In this sense, this paper focuses on the description of a virtual reality (VR) simulation platform for the monitoring process of an avatar in a virtual home by a rotatory-wing autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This platform is based on a distributed architecture composed of three modules communicated through the message queue telemetry transport (MQTT) protocol: the UAV Simulator implemented in MATLAB/Simulink, the VR Visualiser developed in Unity, and the new emotion recognition (ER) system developed in Python. Using a face detection algorithm and a convolutional neural network (CNN), the ER System is able to detect the person’s face in the image captured by the UAV’s on-board camera and classify the emotion among seven possible ones (surprise; fear; happiness; sadness; disgust; anger; or neutral expression). The experimental results demonstrate the correct integration of this new computer vision module within the VR platform, as well as the good performance of the designed CNN, with around 85% in the F1-score, a mean of the precision and recall of the model. The developed emotion detection system can be used in the future implementation of the assistance UAV that monitors dependent people in a real environment, since the methodology used is valid for images of real people. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
A Proposal of Accessibility Guidelines for Human-Robot Interaction
Electronics 2021, 10(5), 561; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10050561 - 27 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 631
Abstract
We will increasingly become dependent on automation to support our manufacturing and daily living, and robots are likely to take an important place in this. Unfortunately, currently not all the robots are accessible for all users. This is due to the different characteristics [...] Read more.
We will increasingly become dependent on automation to support our manufacturing and daily living, and robots are likely to take an important place in this. Unfortunately, currently not all the robots are accessible for all users. This is due to the different characteristics of users, as users with visual, hearing, motor or cognitive disabilities were not considered during the design, implementation or interaction phase, causing accessibility barriers to users who have limitations. This research presents a proposal for accessibility guidelines for human-robot interaction (HRI). The guidelines have been evaluated by seventeen HRI designers and/or developers. A questionnaire of nine five-point Likert Scale questions and 6 open-ended questions was developed to evaluate the proposed guidelines for developers and designers, in terms of four main factors: usability, social acceptance, user experience and social impact. The questions act as indicators for each factor. The majority (15 of 17 participants) agreed that the guidelines are helpful for them to design and implement accessible robot interfaces and applications. Some of them had considered some ad hoc guidelines in their design practice, but none of them showed awareness of or had applied all the proposed guidelines in their design practice, 72% of the proposed guidelines have been applied by less than or equal to 8 participants for each guideline. Moreover, 16 of 17 participants would use the proposed guidelines in their future robot designs or evaluation. The participants recommended the importance of aligning the proposed guidelines with safety requirements, environment of interaction (indoor or outdoor), cost and users’ expectations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
Exploring the Role of Trust and Expectations in CRI Using In-the-Wild Studies
Electronics 2021, 10(3), 347; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10030347 - 02 Feb 2021
Viewed by 608
Abstract
Studying interactions of children with humanoid robots in familiar spaces in natural contexts has become a key issue for social robotics. To fill this need, we conducted several Child–Robot Interaction (CRI) events with the Pepper robot in Polish and Japanese kindergartens. In this [...] Read more.
Studying interactions of children with humanoid robots in familiar spaces in natural contexts has become a key issue for social robotics. To fill this need, we conducted several Child–Robot Interaction (CRI) events with the Pepper robot in Polish and Japanese kindergartens. In this paper, we explore the role of trust and expectations towards the robot in determining the success of CRI. We present several observations from the video recordings of our CRI events and the transcripts of free-format question-answering sessions with the robot using the Wizard-of-Oz (WOZ) methodology. From these observations, we identify children’s behaviors that indicate trust (or lack thereof) towards the robot, e.g., challenging behavior of a robot or physical interactions with it. We also gather insights into children’s expectations, e.g., verifying expectations as a causal process and an agency or expectations concerning the robot’s relationships, preferences and physical and behavioral capabilities. Based on our experiences, we suggest some guidelines for designing more effective CRI scenarios. Finally, we argue for the effectiveness of in-the-wild methodologies for planning and executing qualitative CRI studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
Algorithm to Generate Trajectories in a Robotic Arm Using an LCD Touch Screen to Help Physically Disabled People
Electronics 2021, 10(2), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10020104 - 06 Jan 2021
Viewed by 918
Abstract
In the last two-decade, robotics has attracted a lot of attention from the biomedical sectors, to help physically disabled people in their quotidian lives. Therefore, the research of robotics applied in the control of an anthropomorphic robotic arm to people assistance and rehabilitation [...] Read more.
In the last two-decade, robotics has attracted a lot of attention from the biomedical sectors, to help physically disabled people in their quotidian lives. Therefore, the research of robotics applied in the control of an anthropomorphic robotic arm to people assistance and rehabilitation has increased considerably. In this context, robotic control is one of the most important problems and is considered the main part of trajectory planning and motion control. The main solution for robotic control is inverse-kinematics, because it provides the angles of robotic arm joints. However, there are disadvantages in the algorithms presented by several authors because the trajectory calculation needs an optimization process which implies more calculations to generate an optimized trajectory. Moreover, the solutions presented by the authors implied devices where the people are dependent or require help from other people to control these devices. This article proposes an algorithm to calculate an accuracy trajectory in any time of interest using an LCD touch screen to calculate the inverse-kinematics and get the end-point of the gripper; the trajectory is calculated using a novel distribution function proposed which makes an easy way to get fast results to the trajectory planning. The obtained results show improvements to generate a safe and fast trajectory of an anthropomorphic robotic arm using an LCD touch screen allowed calculating short trajectories with minimal fingers moves. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
A Dynamic Path Planning Method for Social Robots in the Home Environment
Electronics 2020, 9(7), 1173; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics9071173 - 19 Jul 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1129
Abstract
The home environment is a typical dynamic environment with moveable obstacles. The social robots working in home need to search for feasible paths in this complex dynamic environment. In this work, we propose an improved RRT algorithm to plan feasible path in home [...] Read more.
The home environment is a typical dynamic environment with moveable obstacles. The social robots working in home need to search for feasible paths in this complex dynamic environment. In this work, we propose an improved RRT algorithm to plan feasible path in home environment. The algorithm pre-builds a tree that covers the whole map and maintains the effectiveness of all nodes with branch pruning, reconnection, and regrowth process. The method forms a path by searching the nearest node in the tree and then quickly accessing the nodes near the destination. Due to the effectiveness-maintaining process, the proposed method can effectively deal with the complex dynamic environment where the destination and multiple moving obstacles change simultaneously. In addition, our method can be extended to the path-planning problem in 3D space. The simulation experiments verify the effectiveness of the algorithm. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
Distance Special Education Delivery by Social Robots
Electronics 2020, 9(6), 1034; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics9061034 - 23 Jun 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1334
Abstract
The outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) has resulted in a significant disruption of almost all aspects of everyday life. Several governments around the world have adopted emergency actions to reduce spreading of the virus, which included suspension of non-essential [...] Read more.
The outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) has resulted in a significant disruption of almost all aspects of everyday life. Several governments around the world have adopted emergency actions to reduce spreading of the virus, which included suspension of non-essential activities and the implementation of social distancing practices. In our case, governmental measures have resulted in the suspension of our experimental protocol for testing the effectiveness of robot-based treatment of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) compared to conventional human (therapist)-based treatment. These circumstances led to an investigation of the potential of tele-consulting. This paper describes alternatives to implement synchronous and asynchronous therapeutic sessions for children already participating in the protocol, in order to reduce the negative effects of the strict cessation of the in-person sessions. The usefulness of our approach was assessed by recording the children’s and the parent’s satisfaction via questionnaires. In addition, we compare satisfaction between the synchronous and asynchronous sessions. The results show that the approach has been very satisfactory and useful for both children and parents, and that this was especially the case for the robot-based material. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
Imitating Human Emotions with a NAO Robot as Interviewer Playing the Role of Vocational Tutor
Electronics 2020, 9(6), 971; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics9060971 - 11 Jun 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 858
Abstract
This paper proposes an intelligent system that can hold an interview, using a NAO robot as interviewer playing the role of vocational tutor. For that, twenty behaviors within five personality profiles are classified and categorized into NAO. Five basic emotions are considered: anger, [...] Read more.
This paper proposes an intelligent system that can hold an interview, using a NAO robot as interviewer playing the role of vocational tutor. For that, twenty behaviors within five personality profiles are classified and categorized into NAO. Five basic emotions are considered: anger, boredom, interest, surprise, and joy. Selected behaviors are grouped according to these five different emotions. Common behaviors (e.g., movements or body postures) used by the robot during vocational guidance sessions are based on a theory of personality traits called the “Five-Factor Model”. In this context, a predefined set of questions is asked by the robot—according to a theoretical model called the “Orientation Model”—about the person’s vocational preferences. Therefore, NAO could react as conveniently as possible during the interview, according to the score of the answer given by the person to the question posed and its personality type. Additionally, based on the answers to these questions, a vocational profile is established, and the robot could provide a recommendation about the person’s vocation. The results show how the intelligent selection of behaviors can be successfully achieved through the proposed approach, making the Human–Robot Interaction friendlier. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Article
Four-Features Evaluation of Text to Speech Systems for Three Social Robots
Electronics 2020, 9(2), 267; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics9020267 - 05 Feb 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1061
Abstract
The success of social robotics is directly linked to their ability of interacting with people. Humans possess verbal and non-verbal communication skills, and, therefore, both are essential for social robots to get a natural human–robot interaction. This work focuses on the first of [...] Read more.
The success of social robotics is directly linked to their ability of interacting with people. Humans possess verbal and non-verbal communication skills, and, therefore, both are essential for social robots to get a natural human–robot interaction. This work focuses on the first of them since the majority of social robots implement an interaction system endowed with verbal capacities. In order to do this implementation, we must equip social robots with an artificial voice system. In robotics, a Text to Speech (TTS) system is the most common speech synthesizer technique. The performance of a speech synthesizer is mainly evaluated by its similarity to the human voice in relation to its intelligibility and expressiveness. In this paper, we present a comparative study of eight off-the-shelf TTS systems used in social robots. In order to carry out the study, 125 participants evaluated the performance of the following TTS systems: Google, Microsoft, Ivona, Loquendo, Espeak, Pico, AT&T, and Nuance. The evaluation was performed after observing videos where a social robot communicates verbally using one TTS system. The participants completed a questionnaire to rate each TTS system in relation to four features: intelligibility, expressiveness, artificiality, and suitability. In this study, four research questions were posed to determine whether it is possible to present a ranking of TTS systems in relation to each evaluated feature, or, on the contrary, there are no significant differences between them. Our study shows that participants found differences between the TTS systems evaluated in terms of intelligibility, expressiveness, and artificiality. The experiments also indicated that there was a relationship between the physical appearance of the robots (embodiment) and the suitability of TTS systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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Review

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Review
Service Robots in Catering Applications: A Review and Future Challenges
Electronics 2021, 10(1), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10010047 - 30 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1236
Abstract
“Hello, I’m the TERMINATOR, and I’ll be your server today”. Diners might soon be feeling this greeting, with Optimus Prime in the kitchen and Wall-E then sending your order to C-3PO. In our daily lives, a version of that future is already showing [...] Read more.
“Hello, I’m the TERMINATOR, and I’ll be your server today”. Diners might soon be feeling this greeting, with Optimus Prime in the kitchen and Wall-E then sending your order to C-3PO. In our daily lives, a version of that future is already showing up. Robotics companies are designing robots to handle tasks, including serving, interacting, collaborating, and helping. These service robots are intended to coexist with humans and engage in relationships that lead them to a better quality of life in our society. Their constant evolution and the arising of new challenges lead to an update of the existing systems. This update provides a generic vision of two questions: the advance of service robots, and more importantly, how these robots are applied in society (professional and personal) based on the market application. In this update, a new category is proposed: catering robotics. This proposal is based on the technological advances that generate new multidisciplinary application fields and challenges. Waiter robots is an example of the catering robotics. These robotic platforms might have social capacities to interact with the consumer and other robots, and at the same time, might have physical skills to perform complex tasks in professional environments such as restaurants. This paper explains the guidelines to develop a waiter robot, considering aspects such as architecture, interaction, planning, and execution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applications and Trends in Social Robotics)
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