Emotional Body Language Displayed by Artificial Agents

Ariel Beck, Brett Stevens, Kim A. Bard, Lola Cañamero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Complex and natural social interaction between artificial agents (computer-generated or robotic) and humans necessitates the display of rich emotions in order to be believable, socially relevant, and accepted, and to
generate the natural emotional responses that humans show in the context of social interaction, such as engagement or empathy. Whereas some robots use faces to display (simplified) emotional expressions, for other robots such as Nao, body language is the best medium available given their inability to convey facial
expressions. Displaying emotional body language that can be interpreted whilst interacting with the robot should significantly improve naturalness. This research investigates the creation of an affect space for the generation of emotional body language to be displayed by humanoid robots. To do so, three experiments
investigating how emotional body language displayed by agents is interpreted were conducted. The first experiment compared the interpretation of emotional body language displayed by humans and agents. The results showed that emotional body language displayed by an agent or a human is interpreted in a similar way in terms of recognition. Following these results, emotional key poses were extracted from an actor’s performances and implemented in a Nao robot. The interpretation of these key poses was validated in a second study where it was found that participants were better than chance at interpreting the key poses displayed. Finally, an affect space was generated by blending key poses and validated in a third study. Overall, these experiments confirmed that body language is an appropriate medium for robots to display emotions and suggest that an affect space for body expressions can be used to improve the expressiveness of humanoid robots.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages29
JournalACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Human-Robot Interaction, Nonverbal Interaction,
  • Humanoid Robots
  • Emotion Modeling
  • Affective Robotics
  • Affective Computing


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