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  1. The field of Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC) has seen a considerable amount of progress in recent years. Thanks in part to advances in control and perception algorithms, robots have started to work in increasingly unstructured environments, where they operate side by side with humans to achieve shared tasks. However, little progress has been made toward the development of systems that are truly effective in supporting the human, proactive in their collaboration, and that can autonomously take care of part of the task. In this work, we present a collaborative system capable of assisting a human worker despite limited manipulation capabilities, incomplete model of the task, and partial observability of the environment. Our framework leverages information from a high-level, hierarchical model that is shared between the human and robot and that enables transparent synchronization between the peers and mutual understanding of each other’s plan. More precisely, we firstly derive a partially observable Markov model from the high-level task representation; we then use an online Monte-Carlo solver to compute a short-horizon robot-executable plan. The resulting policy is capable of interactive replanning on-the-fly, dynamic error recovery, and identification of hidden user preferences. We demonstrate that the system is capable of robustly providing support to the human in a realistic furniture construction task. 
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  2. In this paper, we introduce Ommie, a novel robot that supports deep breathing practices for the purposes of anxiety reduction. The robot’s primary function is to guide users through a series of extended inhales, exhales, and holds by way of haptic interactions and audio cues. We present core design decisions during development, such as robot morphology and tactility, as well as the results of a usability study in collaboration with a local wellness center. Interacting with Ommie resulted in a significant reduction in STAI-6 anxiety measures, and participants found the robot intuitive, approachable, and engaging. Participants also reported feelings of focus and companionship when using the robot, often elicited by the haptic interaction. These results show promise in the robot’s capacity for supporting mental health. 
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  3. Abstract—A growing population of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) chronically struggles to find and maintain employment. Previous work reveals that one barrier to employment for adults with ASD is dealing with workplace interruptions. In this paper, we present our design and evaluations of an in-home autonomous robot system that aims to improve users’ tolerance to interruptions. The Interruptions Skills Training and Assessment Robot (ISTAR) allows adults with ASD to practice handling interruptions to improve their employability. ISTAR is evaluated by surveys of employers and adults with ASD, and a week-long study in the homes of adults with ASD. Results show that users enjoy training with ISTAR, improve their ability to handle various work-relevant interruptions, and view the system as a valuable tool for improving their employment prospects. 
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  4. Regular exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. However, when exercises are done incorrectly, it can lead to injuries. Because the COVID-19 pandemic made it challenging to exercise in communal spaces, the growth of virtual fitness programs was accelerated, putting people at risk of sustaining exercise-related injuries as they received little to no feedback on their exercising techniques. Colocated robots could be one potential enhancement to virtual training programs as they can cause higher learning gains, more compliance, and more enjoyment than non-co-located robots. In this study, we compare the effects of a physically present robot by having a person exercise either with a robot (robot condition) or a video of a robot displayed on a tablet (tablet condition). Participants (N=25) had an exercise system in their homes for two weeks. Participants who exercised with the colocated robot made fewer mistakes than those who exercised with the video-displayed robot. Furthermore, participants in the robot condition reported a higher fitness increase and more motivation to exercise than participants in the tablet condition. 
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  5. In peer tutoring, the learner is taught by a colleague rather than by a traditional tutor. This strategy has been shown to be effective in human tutoring, where students have higher learning gains when taught by a peer instead of a traditional tutor. Similar results have been shown in child-robot interactions studies, where a peer robot was more effective than a tutor robot at teaching children. In this work, we compare skill increase and perception of a peer robot to a tutor robot when teaching adults. We designed a system in which a robot provides personalized help to adults in electronic circuit construction. We compare the number of learned skills and preferences of a peer robot to a tutor robot. Participants in both conditions improved their circuit skills after interacting with the robot. There were no significant differences in number of skills learned between conditions. However, participants with low prior domain knowledge learned significantly more with a peer robot than a tutor robot. Furthermore, the peer robot was perceived as friendlier, more social, smarter, and more respectful than the tutor robot, regardless of initial skill level. 
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  6. Robot-to-human handovers are common exercises in many robotics application domains. The requirements of handovers may vary across these different domains. In this paper, we first devised a taxonomy to organize the diverse and sometimes contradictory requirements. Among these, task-oriented handovers are not well-studied but important because the purpose of the handovers in human-robot collaboration (HRC) is not merely to pass an object from a robot to a human receiver, but to enable the receiver to use it in a subsequent tool-use task. A successful task-oriented handover should incorporate task-related information - orienting the tool such that the human can grasp it in a way that is suitable for the task. We identified multiple difficulty levels of task-oriented handovers, and implemented a system to generate handovers with novel tools on a physical robot. Unlike previous studies on task-oriented handovers, we trained the robot with tool-use demonstrations rather than handover demonstrations, since task-oriented handovers are dependent on the tool usages in the subsequent task. We demonstrated that our method can adapt to all difficulty levels of task-oriented handovers, including tasks that matched the typical usage of the tool, tasks that required an improvised or unusual usage of the tool, and tasks where the handover was adapted to the pose of a manipulandum. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    The practice of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in billions of people quarantined in their homes. In response, we designed and deployed VectorConnect, a robot teleoperation system intended to help combat the effects of social distancing in children during the pandemic. VectorConnect uses the off-the-shelf Vector robot to allow its users to engage in physical play while being geographically separated. We distributed the system to hundreds of users in a matter of weeks. This paper details the development and deployment of the system, our accomplishments, and the obstacles encountered throughout this process. Also, it provides recommendations to best facilitate similar deployments in the future. We hope that this case study about Human-Robot Interaction practice serves as an inspiration to innovate in times of global crises. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    In this paper, we argue in favor of creating robots that both teach and learn. We propose a methodology for building robots that can learn a skill from an expert, perform the skill independently or collaboratively with the expert, and then teach the same skill to a novice. This requires combining insights from learning from demonstration, human-robot collaboration, and intelligent tutoring systems to develop knowledge representations that can be shared across all three components. As a case study for our methodology, we developed a glockenspiel-playing robot. The robot begins as a novice, learns how to play musical harmonies from an expert, collaborates with the expert to complete harmonies, and then teaches the harmonies to novice users. This methodology allows for new evaluation metrics that provide a thorough understanding of how well the robot has learned and enables a robot to act as an efficient facilitator for teaching across temporal and geographic separation. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    As teams of people increasingly incorporate robot members, it is essential to consider how a robot's actions may influence the team's social dynamics and interactions. In this work, we investigated the effects of verbal support from a robot (e.g., “ good idea Salim ,” “ yeah ”) on human team members' interactions related to psychological safety and inclusion. We conducted a between-subjects experiment ( N = 39 groups, 117 participants) where the robot team member either (A) gave verbal support or (B) did not give verbal support to the human team members of a human-robot team comprised of 2 human ingroup members, 1 human outgroup member, and 1 robot. We found that targeted support from the robot (e.g., “ good idea George ”) had a positive effect on outgroup members, who increased their verbal participation after receiving targeted support from the robot. When comparing groups that did and did not have verbal support from the robot, we found that outgroup members received fewer verbal backchannels from ingroup members if their group had robot verbal support. These results suggest that verbal support from a robot may have some direct benefits to outgroup members but may also reduce the obligation ingroup members feel to support the verbal contributions of outgroup members. 
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  10. null (Ed.)