Robotic gaze and human views: A systematic exploration of robotic gaze aversion and its effects on human behaviors and attitudes


Similar to human–human interaction (HHI), gaze is an important modality in conversational human–robot interaction (HRI) settings. Previously, human-inspired gaze parameters have been used to implement gaze behavior for humanoid robots in conversational settings and improve user experience (UX). Other robotic gaze implementations disregard social aspects of gaze behavior and pursue a technical goal (e.g., face tracking). However, it is unclear how deviating from human-inspired gaze parameters affects the UX. In this study, we use eye-tracking, interaction duration, and self-reported attitudinal measures to study the impact of non-human inspired gaze timings on the UX of the participants in a conversational setting. We show the results for systematically varying the gaze aversion ratio (GAR) of a humanoid robot over a broad parameter range from almost always gazing at the human conversation partner to almost always averting the gaze. The main results reveal that on a behavioral level, a low GAR leads to shorter interaction durations and that human participants change their GAR to mimic the robot. However, they do not copy the robotic gaze behavior strictly. Additionally, in the lowest gaze aversion setting, participants do not gaze back as much as expected, which indicates a user aversion to the robot gaze behavior. However, participants do not report different attitudes toward the robot for different GARs during the interaction. In summary, the urge of humans in conversational settings with a humanoid robot to adapt to the perceived GAR is stronger than the urge of intimacy regulation through gaze aversion, and a high mutual gaze is not always a sign of high comfort, as suggested earlier. This result can be used as a justification to deviate from human-inspired gaze parameters when necessary for specific robot behavior implementations.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI