18-899-L3   Human-Robot Interaction

Location: Africa

Units: 6

Semester Offered: Spring

Course discipline


Course description

In the future, robots will increasingly become a part of our daily lives. We will interact with them and they with us, in our hospitals, offices, shops, and homes as well as in our factories. Human-robot interaction (HRI) is concerned with the problem of making this interaction natural and effective. It is a multidisciplinary field and includes elements of engineering, computer science, robotics, psychology, sociology, and design. This course explores the way in which these disciplines contribute to the field of HRI and it will give students the foundation needed to develop robot systems that can interact effectively with humans. The course is delivered through a mix of teaching, reading, and in-class discussion. Students will prepare the lectures. For each class, all students will prepare a synthesis that would be suitable for teaching the material. The material should be abstracted from the corresponding chapter in the course textbook. During the class, one or more students will be randomly selected to present her or his synthesis. After the presentation, we will review the material delivered and discuss how it might be improved. Student progress is assessed by a series of multiple-choice tests and written individual & group assignments. 

Learning objectives

Students will be introduced to the different disciplines that contribute to an understanding of the interaction and the role they play in developing a successful HRI system. They will learn about the different components of a robot and the software control of a robot. They will learn what is required for effective interaction between humans and robots. They will be introduced to the different interaction modalities – spatial, non-verbal, verbal, and emotional – and how they relate to robotics. Students will learn about the problems that still exist in the field and how to assess possible solutions to these problems. They will also learn about the current and future use of robots in society in a variety of applications.


After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain what elements are included in the field of human-robot interaction.
  • Describe the physical parts that are commonly used in robotics and how they work.
  • Identify the key elements to consider when designing a robot.
  • Describe the major issues for robots in spatial interaction.
  • Explain how robots can manage non-verbal interaction.
  • Explain how robots can manage verbal interaction.
  • Describe how emotions relate to robotics.
  • Identify existing problems and explain how to assess potential solutions.
  • List the major applications of robots and the issues related to them.
  • Explain how robots are currently used in society.
  • Identify what the future may hold for HRI.

Content details

  • Overview of human-robot interaction
  • The components, structure, and operation of a robot
  • Robot design considerations
  • Spatial interaction
  • Non-verbal interaction
  • Verbal interaction
  • Emotions
  • Research methods
  • Applications
  • Robots in society


There are no prerequisites for taking this course, although it would be an advantage to have taken 18-799-K Artificial Cognitive Systems and 18-799-L Robotics: Principles and Practice.


David Vernon