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Finding a Unifying Theme

There are multiple ways to frame HRI as a field. One approach is to treat HRI as a resurgent emphasis and extension of previous work in human factors, teleoperation, and supervisory control. Another approach to framing HRI is to view it as a new field that includes a convergence of previous work with new research problems caused by some new capability that fundamentally changes the problem. We assert that robot autonomy has reached the point where mixed-initiative interaction and semi-autonomous control have fundamentally changed the field from previous research on related problems. Thus, we treat HRI as a new field that faces opportunities and problems which are not simple extensions of previous work. We acknowledge, however, that it is possible to make persuasive arguments that HRI is simply a refocusing of previous efforts rather than a new field.

One way to unify the scope of current HRI research is to condense the five dimensions of designer influence into a single concept as exemplified in our proposed scale of interaction, Figure 3, with the caveat that this single concept cannot capture every nuance and possible design of every HRI problem. The concept of dynamic interaction seems to capture the current research direction of many HRI efforts.

Dynamic interaction includes time- and task-varying changes in autonomy, information exchange, team organization and authority, and training. It applies to both remote and proximate interactions, including social and physical interactions. By including variable autonomy assignments, the concept of dynamic interaction subsumes adaptive and dynamic autonomy as a special case [78, 219-224]. By including information exchange, dynamic interaction includes adaptive and adaptable interfaces [28, 78, 225]. By including team organization and authority, mixed initiative interaction [123, 158, 226, 227] is addressed. By including training, interactive learning is included.

More importantly, the concept of dynamic interaction places the emphasis on shaping the types of interactions that can and will emerge as humans and robots interact. The scope of HRI research and design, therefore, includes all efforts at evaluating systems and interaction paradigms, designing autonomy algorithms in the context of HRI, designing interfaces and information exchange protocols, defining and switching roles, and influencing learning and training. This emphasis on dynamic interaction differs sharply from the historically static interactions of pure teleoperation and pure supervisory control.

Note that some current research efforts and methods do not naturally fit into the dynamic interaction framework. These include several aspects of task shaping, including ethnographic studies, goal-directed task analyses, and some cognitive science-based work. However, understanding existing processes and potential use patterns helps researchers better understand the fluid interaction patterns that are likely to exist in practice, and then design interactions that support, improve, and extend these interaction patterns.