Interacting with Robots through Touch: Materials as Affordances

Guy Hoffman


Nonverbal behavior is at the core of human-robot interaction, but the subfield of social haptics is distinctly underrepresented. Most efforts focus around inserting sensors under a soft skin and using pattern recognition to infer a human’s tactile intention. There is virtually no work on robots touching humans in a social way, or robots responding to touch in a socially meaningful tactile manner. In that context, the advent of soft robotics and computational materials offers a new way for social robots to express internal and affective states. In the past, robot used mainly rotational and prismatic degrees of freedom for expression. How can new actuation technologies, such as shape-memory alloys, pneumatics, and “4D printed” structures contribute to new feedback methods and interaction paradigms? Also, how can we integrate traditional materials, such as wood, metals and ceramics to support the robot’s expressive capacity?