HRI 2017 workshop

Workshop on “The Role of Intentions in Human-Robot Interaction”
6 March 2017

in conjunction with the
12th ACM / IEEE International Conference on
Human-Robot Interaction (HRI 2017)

Vienna, Austria



Background & Motivation

Research in the cognitive sciences, not least social neuroscience, has in the last 10-20 years made substantial progress in elucidating the mechanisms underlying the recognition of actions and intentions in natural human-human social interactions and in developing computational models of these mechanisms. However, there is much less research on the mechanisms underlying the human interpretation of the behaviour of artefacts, such as robots or automated vehicles, and the attribution of intentions to such systems.

Given the state of the art in psychology and neuroscience, there are also at least two very different intuitions that one might have:

  • On the one hand it has been well known for decades from psychological experiments that people tend to interpret even simple moving shapes in terms of more or less human-like actions and intentions. So the first intuition could be that this should also apply to robots and other autonomous systems.
  • On the other hand, much (social) neuroscience research in the last 10-20 years, not least the discovery of the so-called mirror (neuron) system, also points to the importance of embodiment and morphological differences, which might lead to the intuition that humans might be able to more or less easily understand the behaviour of very human-like robots, but not necessarily the behaviour of, for example, autonomous lawnmowers or automated vehicles.

To what degree, and how precisely, each of these mechanisms might be involved in human interaction with artificial agents remains largely unknown. It may, for instance, depend at least in part on the human perception of the agent: previous research has shown that humans adapt their behaviour according to their beliefs of the cognitive abilities of other agents (even artificial ones).  Conversely, the same insights and intuitions are also relevant for robot recognition of human intentions, which is a arguably a prerequisite for pro-social behaviour, and necessary to engage in, for instance, instrumental helping or mutual collaboration. To develop robots that can interact naturally and effectively with people therefore requires the creation of systems that can perceive and comprehend intentions in other agents.

For research on human interaction with robots and other types of autonomous technologies – and mutual action/intention recognition in particular – it is therefore important to be clear about the theoretical framework(s) and inherent assumptions underlying technological implementations. This has further ramifications for the evaluation of the quality of the interaction. Overall, the role of intentions in HRI remains very much an active research area, and the purpose of this workshop is to advance the state of the art in that respect.


  • Agnieszka Wykowska (IIT, Genova), “How attribution of intentionality to robots influences social attunement”
  • Alessandra Sciutti (IIT, Genova), “Robots reading and communicating intentions – the role of implicit signals”


The workshop will be centred around three main activities:

  1. keynote presentations to highlight the overall state of the art
  2. oral paper presentations that deal with specific aspects of the work carried out by workshop participants
  3. a round-table discussion that will allow all participants to contribute their thoughts on the open and most pressing research challenges

Suitable topics for the workshop include all aspects of the recognition, attribution, communication, etc. of intentions in human-robot interaction, including

  • machine recognition of human intentions
  • human recognition/attribution of robot intentions
  • implications for the evaluation of HRI

Both empirical work and more theoretical position papers are welcome. Papers must make an interesting, relevant, and novel contribution (whether theoretical or empirical) to the state of the art. Note that we use the term ‘robot’ in a broad sense here to refer to any type of autonomous technologies, also including, for example, automated vehicles.


  • Serge Thill, University of Skövde, Sweden
  • Tom Ziemke, University of Skövde & Linköping University, Sweden


There are two(!) submission deadlines – one for authors who want/need/prefer a notification before the HRI 2017 early registration (January 31), and one for everybody else.

  • 1st submission deadline  –  23 January 2017   (notification: latest 28 January)
  • 2nd submission deadline – 17 February 2017   (notification: latest 24 February)
  • 6 March 2017 – workshop date

Submission Instructions

Submissions should be in the form of extended abstracts (2 pages) or short papers (4 pages). Formatting is flexible at this point.

Please e-mail your submission to BOTH and by the above submission deadline(s).


We are also guest editing a special issue/research topic on “Intentions in Human-Robot Interaction for the journal Frontiers in Neurorobotics. The manuscript submission deadline is 30 April 2017. Formally, the workshop and the special issue are of course independent of each other, but at least for some of the workshop participants submitting a full paper to the special issue might be a natural next step.