Implicit and explicit communication for cooperation between humanoid robots

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Electronics


When cooperating on a task such as moving an object, humans will use a mixture of explicit communication (e.g. speech) and implicit communication (e.g. implied information through action) to ensure coordination. This research is investigating the relationship between implicit and explicit communication between robots engaged in collaborative tasks and aims to mimic in robots the intuitive way humans collaborate.

By establishing implicit communication as a valid channel for information transfer, multi-robot systems could be fault-tolerant to environmental changes or hardware failure by conveying information through indirect channels. Systems could also become more efficient and economical by reducing the amount of information that must be transferred through conventional explicit means. The potential impact is on any multi-robot application where centralised coordination is unavailable or undesirable, including any application to which a robotic swarm or collective would be suited.

There are three aims for this research that are each explored in part through the research methodology employed: firstly, to perform a meta-analysis of existing literature in related fields, secondly to replicate the techniques developed in existing literature within the context of this specific research question and finally the further development and novel integration of these techniques to create an entirely new behaviour inspired by human-human interaction.

Three key areas of interest have been identified to achieve the desired behaviour. Firstly, developing a way for robots to communicate implicitly, potentially inspired by existing implementation of implicit communication within swarm robotics, including force consensus and imitation. Secondly, mimicking human intuition in similar collaborative tasks by implementing an internal simulator within the robot so that they can evaluate the consequences of their actions and make decisions for the best next action to execute. Finally, exploring incorporating the concept of dynamic leadership, dynamically assigning the role of leader to different agents depending on which is best suited to the role at any given point. This will facilitate a guided collaboration between two agents, and it is anticipated that the integration of these three areas will allow for a new form of communication and collaboration to arise.

This research aligns itself with EPSRC's artificial intelligence systems, robotics and control engineering research areas.


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Gildert N (2018) Extended Abstract

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Gildert N (2018) Mini Review in The Need for Combining Implicit and Explicit Communication in Cooperative Robotic Systems

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509802/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2022
1792120 Studentship EP/N509802/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2019 Naomi Gildert
Description AI Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop was held during the Daedalus Science Festival at the Star and Shadow in Newcastle, a volunteer run cinema and venue. It was composed of four speakers giving short presentations and then a Q+A panel at the end, followed by a viewing of the minority report. The talks were free to attend. The symposium aimed to shed a light on exactly how Artificial Intelligence draws on and mimics the creations of natural evolution and, perhaps more importantly, how Artificial Intelligence will affect the way we and future generations live our everyday lives. My talk focused on current robotics research including my own that mimics human collaborative behaviour and human communication. Feedback from my talk was very positive with people finding it engaging and interesting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Three Minute Thesis Finals at the University of York 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The general public and several local schools were invited to attend the finals for the three minute thesis competition at the University of York. The competition entails PhD students describing their work in only three minutes in a way that is engaging, relatable and understandable to the audience. After the competition there was opportunity for discussion and I spoke with a few members of the public who enjoyed my talk and whose understanding of human collaborative behaviour had increased from listening to my pitch.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017