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This paper reports our development of a communication robot for use in a shopping mall to provide shopping information, offer route guidance, and build rapport. In the development, the major difficulties included sensing human behaviors, conversation in a noisy daily environment, and the needs of unexpected miscellaneous knowledge in the conversation. We chose a network-robot system approach, where a single robot's poor sensing capability and knowledge are supplemented by ubiquitous sensors and a human operator. The developed robot system detects a person with floor sensors to initiate interaction, identifies individuals with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, gives shopping information while chatting, and provides route guidance with deictic gestures. The robot was partially teleoperated to avoid the difficulty of speech recognition as well as to furnish a new kind of knowledge that only humans can flexibly provide. The information supplied by a human operator was later used to increase the robot's autonomy. For 25 days in a shopping mall, we conducted a field trial and gathered 2642 interactions. A total of 235 participants signed up to use RFID tags and, later, provided questionnaire responses. The questionnaire results are promising in terms of the visitors' perceived acceptability as well as the encouragement of their shopping activities. The results of the teleoperation analysis revealed that the amount of teleoperation gradually decreased, which is also promising.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2010