Timing in Multimodal Turn-Taking Interactions: Control and Analysis Using Timed Petri Nets

Crystal Chao, Andrea Lockerd Thomaz


Turn-taking interactions with humans are multimodal and reciprocal in nature. In addition, the timing of actions is of great importance, as it influences both social and task strategies. To enable the precise control and analysis of timed discrete events for a robot, we develop a system for multimodal collaboration based on a timed Petri net (TPN) representation. We also argue for action interruptions in reciprocal interaction and describe its implementation within our system. Using the system, our autonomously operating humanoid robot Simon collaborates with humans through both speech and physical action to solve the Towers of Hanoi, during which the human and the robot take turns manipulating objects in a shared physical workspace. We hypothesize that action interruptions have a positive impact on turn-taking and evaluate this in the Towers of Hanoi domain through two experimental methods. One is a between-groups user study with 16 participants. The other is a simulation experiment using 200 simulated users of varying speed, initiative, compliance, and correctness. In these experiments, action interruptions are either present or absent in the system. Our collective results show that action interruptions lead to increased task efficiency through increased user initiative, improved interaction balance, and higher sense of fluency. In arriving at these results, we demonstrate how these evaluation methods can be highly complementary in the analysis of interaction dynamics.


Turn-taking, engagement, reciprocity, timing, multimodality, timed Petri net, architec-ture, simulation, collaboration, human-robot interaction

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