Interpreting Robot Pointing Behavior

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding


The ability to draw other agents’ attention to objects and events is an important skill on the critical path to effective human-robot collaboration. People use the act of pointing to draw other people’s attention to objects and events for a wide range of purposes. While there is significant work that aims to understand people’s pointing behavior, there is little work analyzing how people interpret robot pointing. Since robots have a wide range of physical bodies and cognitive architectures, interpreting pointing will be determined by a specific robot’s morphology and behavior. Humanoids and robots whose heads, torso and arms resemble humans that point may be easier for people to interpret, however if such robots have different perceptual capabilities to people then misinterpretation may occur. In this paper we investigate how ordinary people interpret the pointing behavior of a leading state-of-the-art service robot that has been designed to work closely with people. We tested three hypotheses about how robot pointing is interpreted. The most surprising finding was that the direction and pitch of the robot’s head was important in some conditions.


  • Peter Gärdenfors
  • Mary-Anne Williams
  • Shaukat Abidi
  • Xun Wang
  • Benjamin Kuipers
  • Benjamin Johnston
External organisations
  • University of Technology Sydney
  • University of Michigan
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Computer Interaction


  • Human-robot interaction , human-robot collaboration , sociocognitive skills , attention , joint attention , pointing
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Robotics
Subtitle of host publication5th International Conference, ICSR 2013, Bristol, UK, October 27-29, 2013, Proceedings
EditorsGuido Herrmann, Martin J. Pearson, Alexander Lenz, Paul Bremner, Adam Spiers, Ute Leonards
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-02675-6
StatePublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349

Bibliographic note

Cite this paper as: Williams MA., Abidi S., Gärdenfors P., Wang X., Kuipers B., Johnston B. (2013) Interpreting Robot Pointing Behavior. In: Herrmann G., Pearson M.J., Lenz A., Bremner P., Spiers A., Leonards U. (eds) Social Robotics. ICSR 2013. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 8239. Springer, Cham

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