Goal-based explanations for autonomous systems and robots

Autonomous systems such as robots may become another appliance found in our homes and workplaces. In order to have such systems helping humans to perform their tasks, they must be as autonomous as possible, to prevent becoming a nuisance instead of an aid. Autonomy will require the systems or robots to set up their own agenda (in line with the tasks they are meant to do), defining the next goals to achieve and discarding those that can’t be completed. However, this may create misunderstandings with the users around the system, who may expect something different from the robot. Therefore, it is important that these autonomous systems are able to explain why they achieved one task and not another, or why some new (unexpected) task was achieved that was not scheduled. Other sources of misunderstandings may come from action failures and replanning, where the robot finds a new plan to complete an ongoing task. In this case, the new plan may be different to the original one, thus changing the behaviour that the robot was performing.

This project will explore how to generate goal-based explanations for robots in assistive/home-based scenarios, extracted from goal-reasoning techniques. It will also look at plan repair to enforce cohesion after a replanning to ideally increase the trust and understanding of the users about the system. Those explanations should also contemplate unforeseen circumstances, therefore explaining things based on “excuses” that the robot may give to the user. Finally, we will investigate how to obtain and provide those explanations at execution time, so explaining on the go. The methods developed shall be integrated into a robotic system, in an assistive/service robot scenario.

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[6] Gobelbecker, M., Keller, T., Eyerich, P., Brenner, M., & Nebel, B. (2010, April). Coming up with good excuses: What to do when no plan can be found. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling (Vol. 20, No. 1).

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