Using Gestures to Resolve Lexical Ambiguity in Storytelling with Humanoid Robots

Susan McRoy, Catelyn Scholl


Gestures that co-occur with speech are a fundamental component of communication. Prior research with children suggests that gestures may help them to resolve certain forms of lexical ambiguity, including homophones. To test this idea in the context of human-robot interaction, the effects of iconic and deictic gestures on the understanding of homophones was assessed in an experiment where a humanoid robot told a short story containing pairs of homophones to small groups of young participants, accompanied by either expressive gestures or no gestures. Both groups of subjects completed a pretest and post-test to measure their ability to discriminate between pairs of homophones and we calculated aggregated precision. The results show that the use of iconic and deictic gestures aids in general understanding of homophones, providing additional evidence for the importance of gesture to the development of children’s language and communication skills.

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www.dialogue-and-discourse.orgISSN: 2152-9620   Journal doi: 10.5087/dad