Towards Empathetic Human-Robot Interactions

Published in The International Conference on Intelligent Text Processing and Computational Linguistics. (CICLing), 2016


  title={Towards empathetic human-robot interactions},
  author={Fung, Pascale and Bertero, Dario and Wan, Yan and Dey, Anik and Chan, Ricky Ho Yin and Siddique, Farhad Bin and Yang, Yang and Wu, Chien-Sheng and Lin, Ruixi},
  journal={arXiv preprint arXiv:1605.04072},


Since the late 1990s when speech companies began providing their customer-service software in the market, people have gotten used to speaking to machines. As people interact more often with voice and gesture controlled machines, they expect the machines to recognize different emotions, and understand other high level communication features such as humor, sarcasm and intention. In order to make such communication possible, the machines need an empathy module in them, which is a software system that can extract emotions from human speech and behavior and can decide the correct response of the robot. Although research on empathetic robots is still in the primary stage, current methods involve using signal processing techniques, sentiment analysis and machine learning algorithms to make robots that can ’understand’ human emotion. Other aspects of human-robot interaction include facial expression and gesture recognition, as well as robot movement to convey emotion and intent. We propose Zara the Supergirl as a prototype system of empathetic robots. It is a software-based virtual android, with an animated cartoon character to present itself on the screen. She will get ’smarter’ and more empathetic, by having machine learning algorithms, and gathering more data and learning from it. In this paper, we present our work so far in the areas of deep learning of emotion and sentiment recognition, as well as humor recognition. We hope to explore the future direction of android development and how it can help improve people’s lives.