Watch Where You're Going! Gaze and Head Orientation as Predictors for Social Robot Navigation (2021)
Blake Holman, Abrar Anwar, Akash Singh, Mauricio Tec, Justin Hart, and Peter Stone
Mobile robots deployed in human-populated environments must be able to safely and comfortably navigate in close proximity to people. Head orientation and gaze are both mechanisms which help people to interpret where other people intend to walk, which in turn enables them to coordinate their movement. Head orientation has previously been leveraged to develop classifiers which are able to predict the goal of a person's walking motion. Gaze is believed to generally precede head orientation, with a person quickly moving their eyes to a target and then following it with a turn of their head. This study leverages state-of-the-art virtual reality technology to place participants into a simulated environment in which their gaze and motion can be observed. The results of this study indicate that position, velocity, head orientation, and gaze can all be used as predictive features of the goal of a person's walking motion. The results also indicate that gaze both precedes head orientation and can be used to predict the goal of a person's walking motion at a higher level of accuracy earlier in their walking trajectory. These findings can be leveraged in the design of social navigation systems for mobile robots.
In Proceedings of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2021), Xi'an, China, May 2021.

Justin Hart Postdoctoral Fellow hart [at] cs utexas edu
Peter Stone Faculty pstone [at] cs utexas edu