The need for combining implicit and explicit communication in cooperative robotic systems

Naomi Gildert*, Alan G. Millard, Andrew Pomfret, Jon Timmis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


As the number of robots used in warehouses and manufacturing increases, so too does the need for robots to be able to manipulate objects, not only independently, but also in collaboration with humans and other robots. Our ability to effectively coordinate our actions with fellow humans encompasses several behaviours that are collectively referred to as joint action, and has inspired advances in human-robot interaction by leveraging our natural ability to interpret implicit cues. However, our capacity to efficiently coordinate on object manipulation tasks remains an advantageous process that is yet to be fully exploited in robotic applications. Humans achieve this form of coordination by combining implicit communication (where information is inferred) and explicit communication (direct communication through an established channel) in varying degrees according to the task at hand. Although these two forms of communication have previously been implemented in robotic systems, no system exists that integrates the two in a task-dependent adaptive manner. In this paper, we review existing work on joint action in human-robot interaction, and analyse the state-of-the-art in robot-robot interaction that could act as a foundation for future cooperative object manipulation approaches. We identify key mechanisms that must be developed in order for robots to collaborate more effectively, with other robots and humans, on object manipulation tasks in shared autonomy spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
JournalFrontiers Robotics AI
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Gildert, Millard, Pomfret and Timmis


  • Autonomous systems
  • Collaboration
  • Explicit communication
  • Implicit communication
  • Interaction
  • Joint action
  • Robotics

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