Frontiers in Robotics and AI

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Gaze behavior is an important social signal between humans as it communicates locations of interest. People typically orient their attention to where others look as this informs about others' intentions and future actions. Studies have shown that humans can engage in similar gaze behavior with robots but presumably more so when they adopt the intentional stance toward them (i.e., believing robot behaviors are intentional). In laboratory settings, the phenomenon of attending toward the direction of others' gaze has been examined with the use of the gaze-cueing paradigm. While the gaze-cueing paradigm has been successful in investigating the relationship between adopting the intentional stance toward robots and attention orienting to gaze cues, it is unclear if the repetitiveness of the gaze-cueing paradigm influences adopting the intentional stance. Here, we examined if the duration of exposure to repetitive robot gaze behavior in a gaze-cueing task has a negative impact on subjective attribution of intentionality. Participants performed a short, medium, or long face-to-face gaze-cueing paradigm with an embodied robot while subjective ratings were collected pre and post the interaction. Results show that participants in the long exposure condition had the smallest change in their intention attribution scores, if any, while those in the short exposure condition had a positive change in their intention attribution, indicating that participants attributed more intention to the robot after short interactions. The results also show that attention orienting to robot gaze-cues was positively related to how much intention was attributed to the robot, but this relationship became more negative as the length of exposure increased. In contrast to subjective ratings, the gaze-cueing effects (GCEs) increased as a function of the duration of exposure to repetitive behavior. The data suggest a tradeoff between the desired number of trials needed for observing various mechanisms of social cognition, such as GCEs, and the likelihood of adopting the intentional stance toward a robot.

The history of humankind is full of examples that indicate a constant desire to make human beings more moral. Nowadays, technological breakthroughs might have a significant impact on our moral character and abilities. This is the case of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. The aim of this paper is to consider the ethical aspects of the use of VR in enhancing empathy. First, we will offer an introduction to VR, explaining its fundamental features, devices and concepts. Then, we will approach the characterization of VR as an “empathy machine,” showing why this medium has aroused so much interest and why, nevertheless, we do not believe it is the ideal way to enhance empathy. As an alternative, we will consider fostering empathy-related abilities through virtual embodiment in avatars. In the conclusion, however, we will, we will examine some of the serious concerns related to the ethical relevance of empathy and will defend the philosophical case for a reason-guided empathy, also suggesting specific guidelines for possible future developments of empathy enhancement projects through VR embodied experiences.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in public health interventions such as physical distancing restrictions to limit the spread and transmission of the novel coronavirus, causing significant effects on the delivery of physical healthcare procedures worldwide. The unprecedented pandemic spurs strong demand for intelligent robotic systems in healthcare. In particular, medical telerobotic systems can play a positive role in the provision of telemedicine to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. Different from typical studies on medical teleoperation that consider problems such as time delay and information loss in long-distance communication, this survey addresses the consequences of physiological organ motion when using teleoperation systems to create physical distancing between clinicians and patients in the COVID-19 era. We focus on the control-theoretic approaches that have been developed to address inherent robot control issues associated with organ motion. The state-of-the-art telerobotic systems and their applications in COVID-19 healthcare delivery are reviewed, and possible future directions are outlined.