Of course, when plotting a planetary revolution, it never hurts to be polite. Sara Kiesler, along with her colleagues at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, are studying how to make robots more personable.
Kiesler's team recently presented an interesting study at the International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, held in Tokyo last month. By studying how expert chefs shared advice with students, they're hoping to program robotic dialogue systems in which robots can give instructions and advice to humans ... politely.
"We wondered, if you're trying to be polite, how do you actually do this if you're a robot," Kiesler said.
It turns out that we humans unconsciously use certain rhetorical "hedges" in conversation -- phrases like "so" and "well" and "maybe we can try" -- to soften interactions when instructions are being delivered. Kiesler's research suggests that when robots incorporate such conversational tweaks into dialogue, they appear friendlier and less threatening to humans.