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In the framework of International Conference on Social Robotics


November 26th, 2019 (full day) 

 The Communication Challenges in Joint Action for Human-Robot Interaction

It is interesting to observe, from a roboticist point of view, that human-human joint action is a topic of intense research in cognitive psychology and philosophy. This observation led us to implement a multi-disciplinary initiative to create a unique opportunity for scientific exchange through a series of workshops called "toward a Framework for Joint Action" ( Psychologists and philosophers can present recent developments in joint action research, while roboticists are able to discuss the challenges they face with regard to human-robot interaction and more precisely human-robot joint activity. 

Robots are becoming increasingly flexible agents, able to perform a broader range of actions in diverse contexts, and to adapt their actions to coordinate with human co-actors. This increasing flexibility brings with it new challenges: the more flexible a robot agent is, the more uncertainty a human agent may have about how the robot is going to act. Moreover, robots have to identify and keep track of various action options, and to prioritize some action options. In meeting this challenge, roboticists have been developing various capacities and features that facilitate predictability and communication, from eye gaze and kinematics, to emotional expressions and responsiveness to human emotional expression. In addition, some researchers have worked on higher-level cognitive features, such as the sense of commitment, which may lead robots to resist distraction or alternative action options, and may lead humans also to expect robots to do so, and thus to be willing to rely upon robots.  


ICSR2019 workshop

This year, we propose a workshop at RSS: towards a framework for Joint Action: The Communication Challenges in Joint Action for Human Robot Interaction.

An important area of social robotics is devoted to design robotic agents able to engage in joint action, which are broadly understood as any type of social interaction where two or more individuals coordinate their actions in pursuit of a common goal. In this sense, social robotics aim at developing robots able to establish interpersonal interactions with humans, so they can work together as a team to perform a shared objective. In order to do that, social robotics have taken inspiration from a voluminous body of literature in psychology and philosophy of mind which explores the multiple psychological devices and abilities that are required to achieve joint actions during human-human encounters. Such a myriad of socio-cognitive capacities includes devices like the capacities for jointly attending contextual factors, establishing commitments, sharing intentions and goals or signaling different emotional and cognitive states to coordinate fluently. Arguably, the central function of an important number of these mechanisms underpinning human interactions is to establish communication, so the participants can receive and provide reliable information they can use to coordinate to achieve their common goal. However, these communicative skills open up a group of questions, especially when they are posed in the context of human-robot interaction. How do humans integrate such a diverse array of communicative skills? What desiderata are required for establishing communication in joint action? Are there differences between the communicative skills necessary for conversations and those necessary for joint action? Are the differences between verbal and non-verbal communication important for HRI? Which can be applied to the domain of human-robot interaction? Does the actual state of robotic regarding communication allow to improve the necessary condition for joint actions for HRI? The aim of this workshop is to establish an interdisciplinary debate on the challenge that communication supposes for joint action in the context of human-robot interaction. As part of "toward a framework for Joint Action" series (, it aims to give philosophers, psychologists and roboticists a venue to discuss and share their knowledge and questions regarding the notion of communication during human-robot interaction. This central objective of the workshop can be subdivided into the following sub-objectives:

  • Establishing a mutual framework for discussing the challenge of communication
  • Establishing the central aspects of the communicative skills necessary for joint action
  • Discussing the main difficulties for designing robots able to communicate during joint actions
  • Discussing how research in psychology and philosophy can be useful for approaching the communication in robotics
  • Designing a future plan that will help us establish concrete objectives for overcoming the communication challenge. 


Topics of interest 

  • Communication in HRI (and related particularities)
  • Verbal vs non-verbal in HRI
  • Plurality of Speech acts
  • Grounding Problem
  • Negotiation of Joint goals
  • Commitments
  • Repair strategies during joint action 


Intended audience

The interdisciplinary and intersectional nature of the workshop opens up significantly the range of intended audience. Besides researchers, developers and engineers interested on the design of robots, the workshop is directed to any investigator concerning social cognition and the robothuman interaction including experts in the fields of social, developmental and cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind and cognitive sciences. 


Invited Speakers

Lucia Maria Sacheli (Confirmed). University of Milano-Bicocca.

John Michael (Confirmed). Warwick University. 

Nikolaos Mavridis (Confirmed). Interactive Robots and Media Lab (IRML)


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