A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A mix of posts on gesture, HCI, perception or robots and some personal information.

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New Publication about Design Methodology

I just added a new publication to my publication list:

Marc Steen, Jeroen Arendsen, Anita Cremers, Arnoud de Jong, Jacomien de Jong & Nicole de Koning (2013). Using interactive model simulations in co-design: An experiment in urban design. CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts. Volume 9, Issue 1. (Purchase online at the publisher)

Title: Using interactive model simulations in co-design: An experiment in urban design
Abstract: This paper presents an experiment in which people performed a co-design task in urban design, using a multi-user touch table application with or without interactive model simulations. We hypothesised that using the interactive model simulations would improve communication and co-operation between co-design participants, would help participants to develop shared understanding and would positively affect the co-design process and its outcomes. However, our experiment (involving 60 people in 20 co-design sessions) only partly confirmed these hypotheses. People positively evaluated the interactive model simulation tools (an interactive map of an urban area, interactive models for traffic, sound, sight and safety, and ‘tangibles’), and these tools promoted communication and co-operation, and the exploration of design solutions. However, people’s experiences of social cohesion and their satisfaction with their own contribution to the co-design process were better without these tools, possibly because using these tools drew people’s attention towards these interactive model simulations and away from the dynamics between the participants. We therefore advocate using such tools selectively, for example, early on in a co-design process, to improve shared understanding of the contents of the problem, rather than later on, when people need to focus on their fellow participants and on the processes of communication and co-operation.

My contribution was the setup of the experiment, the definition of measurements and the analysis (statistical and discussion) of the results. It was work done while I was working at TNO.

Interesting CHRIS video

An important European robotics project called CHRIS (Cooperative Human Robot Interaction Systems FP7 215805) has received its final review last april. They have also created a very nice video that summarizes their work:

As the video show, the work includes the recognition of speech, gesture (pointing), actions, and objects. All within a context of cooperation and safety. But, I will not try to summarize their work. Just watch the video.

A Human-Elbonian Handshake

Coincidentally, the daily Dilbert comic also features a somewhat alien handshake, as was the case with Robonaut’s handshake.

A Handshake or a Mitten Kiss?

Wally nicely takes advantage of the gullibility of his Pointy Hared Boss, who, like so many induhviduals, apparently believes in what one might call ‘Inter-Cultural Gesture Determinism’. It is one of the The Biggest Misunderstanding About Gestures that you should be wary of using gestures when talking to strangers. I believe that, generally speaking, when you meet people who speak another language or come from another culture, gestures are your best friend in communication.

Why the Robonaut Handshake with ISS Captain Burbank is not a Greeting

Last Februari 15, 2012, NASA made a little fuss about Robonaut (or R2) performing ‘the first human-humanoid handshake in space’. You can watch it in the video below.


‘Robonaut Shakes Hands’, uploaded by ReelNASA

I would like to use this occasion to enlighten both humans and humanoids about greetings. Although it is of course nice that cpt. Burbank has some kind words regarding the robot’s firm handshake, a nice bit of programming in itself, the normal phases of a greeting, which is a fairly well documented social interaction pattern, are remarkably absent. A handshake is what is called the ‘close salutation’. These ‘close salutations’ are the final phase of the entire greeting episode, which also includes sighting and announcement, distance salutations, and an approach phase (Kendon, 1990). None of the first three steps were followed by Robonaut and cpt. Burbank, the latter merely waited for Robonaut to try and grab his hand. I think this is important, because greetings are among the best documented social interaction patterns of humans. If we want to create social robots, then programming a proper greeting may be one of the most important, and most manageable things we can strive for.

Some references:
Arendsen, J. (2008). Greeting by gesture, a review. Gesture, 8(3), pp. 386-390, link, pdf
Kendon, A. (1990). A description of some human greetings. Conducting Interaction, pp. 153-207. Cambridge University Press.

Update, here is a nice example of a handshake that includes all of the phases of a greeting. They make eye contact, nod slightly or incline their head, approach each other and shake hands.

M.I.A. Doesn’t Give a Shit, Flips the Bird

Another nice gesture story in the news, although, sadly, it is once again about a performer giving the finger. This time it is the artist M.I.A..

M.I.A. giving the finger during Superbowl 46
M.I.A. giving everyone the finger during Superbowl 46 (Source BBC news - Getty Images)

Wikipedia (always good with the bare facts):
While performing with Madonna at the Super Bowl 46, M.I.A. gave the middle finger to a camera just before a cutaway during the halftime show. The gesture came during a performance of Madonna’s new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” At the end of her lines, M.I.A. sang, “I don’t give a ***t.” The incident prompted apologies to be issued by NBC and the NFL.


A video of the incident (source Business Insider, hope they keep the video up)

One somewhat interesting element of the story is that apparently the gesture wasn’t picked up by the people responsible for detecting inappropriate stuff in the ‘delay system’. Well, it is fairly quick, but still easy to see. But then again, there is so much to see on the stage that perhaps they missed because they were looking at other things.

Van Persie’s Nice Gesture Combi Mistaken for a Fascist Salute?

An interesting story in the news (here) and on YouTube today about gestures made by Robin van Persie. Best to watch the video first:


The video containing the gesture (for as long as it stays online…)

Apparently some people interpreted his gesture combination as the Roman/Fascist/Hitler greeting. He himself twittered in response:

Persie_Official Robin van Persie: It has been brought to my attention of some ridiculous allegations concerning my celebration of one of my goals yesterday. It is totally ludicrous to suggest that. My action of brushing my shoulder and pointing to my fans could be construed as anything else but of a showing of joy and celebration. To suggest this meant anything to the contrary is insulting and absolutely absurd as nothing else came into my mind.”

Apart from his grammar, I support his explanation of the gestures. “Brushing your shoulders” is indeed a Dutch gesture performed after performing great feats to indicate “that only ruffled my suit a bit” or “that hardly cost any effort”. Often accompanied with a grin or smirk and brash composure (as displayed here as well). And in this case he uses a salute to direct the gesture towards the audience, which I would interpret as an additional “and I do it all for you”.

This is however also a wonderful example of the importance of context, the perception of intentions, and the sensitivities of observers when it comes to interpreting the meaning of gestures. Someone who is suspicious of Van Persie (for whatever reason) or otherwise prone to ascribe ill intentions to him, may actually look at these gestures, in this situation, quite differently than most people. In this case however it would mean they think extremely lowly of him and of the Arsenal fans. Their line of thinking would run roughly as follows (and just to be certain: I do not agree with it): “I hate fascists/nazi’s. Van Persie may well a secret fascist/nazi. There are more like him in the Arsenal audience that he wishes to salute. He is using the pretext of cheering after a goal to make a (badly) camouflaged fascist salute. But he won’t get away with it, because I saw what I saw.” Well, I pity the one who thinks like that, sorry.

Just to end on a positive note: congrats to Van Persie for a wonderful performance. My hat’s off to you. You indeed make it look so easy sometimes.

Latest Garfield Gestures

Trololol….

Are there ever enough posts about Garfield’s gestures?

Whoever thinks gestures are not like words should be forced to read through half a year of Garfield comics :-)

Even more Garfield Gesture

Browsing through Garfield comics always make me smile, partly because of the nice gestures Jim Davis draws to convey Garfield’s communication.

  • Cheer with two arms in the air
  • Two hands wringing together in joyous glee
  • Garfield and Odie point Jon to his proper place in the universe; Jon makes a ‘Bah’ gesture
  • Jon reinforces a self-reference with a thumb point
  • Odie whistles innocently
  • Silent triadic communication between Garfield, A Nightmarish Remote Control, and his friend the Garage Door Opener

And here is an old but nice story about a woman sueing a fast food restaurant that gave her kid a Garfield toy that appears to be giving the finger.

Toy Garfield giving the finger

Toy Garfield giving the finger

Funnily, a spokesperson for the restaurant defends as follows:

“It is Garfield’s paw, people should not read anymore into it. Garfield is a cartoon cat that doesn’t have fingers but paws.”

Well, I beg to differ…

Earlier lists: here, here, and here. Or just search for Garfield in the search box.

Is a Yawn a Gesture?

In an old article BBC News reported about research showing that Pet dogs can ‘catch’ human yawns. The article is available online in Biology Letters here. (Article ‘Dogs catch human yawns’ by Ramiro M Joly-Mascheroni, Atsushi Senju* and Alex J Shepherd, 2008).

The copying activity suggests that canines are capable of empathising with people, say the researchers who recorded dogs’ behaviour in lab tests.
Until now, only humans and their close primate relatives were thought to find yawning contagious.
The team - from Birkbeck College, University of London - reports its findings in Biology Letters.
Yawning, although sometimes a response to extreme stress, is more often a sign of tiredness; but the reason for why yawning is catching is not fully understood.

Human cues. There is evidence that autistic individuals are less inclined to yawn into response to another human yawning, suggesting that contagious yawning betrays an ability to empathise, explained Birbeck’s Dr Atsushi Senju. Dr Senju and his team wondered whether dogs - that are very skilled at reading human social cues - could read the human yawn signal

There are several very interesting things in these statements. Firstly, I am interested in yawning itself. It is called a social cue. What is a ’social cue’ as opposed to an ‘intentional act of communication’, which is how I define ‘gestures’?

The article itself has this to say about dogs’ abilities:

Dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative cues. They can follow human gaze and pointing (Hare et al. 2002; Miklo´ si et al. 2003; Miklo´ si & Soproni 2006), they can show sensitivity to others’ knowledge states (e.g. indicating the location of a hidden toy more frequently to someone not involved in hiding it than to someone who did the hiding, Vira´nyi et al. 2006) and they are even able to match their own actions to observed human actions (Topa´l et al. 2006).

Goffman and Kendon both make a distinction between ‘giving information’ and ‘giving off information’. In most cases, a yawn gives off information to possible observers, but a yawner does not mean to give information, I would think (although in many cases yawners may want to indicate their tiredness or boredom). The distinction is important because giving information is typically attended to and reacted upon, whereas giving off information is not. Expectations and social etiquette are likewise.

So, how about contagious yawning? It seems to be caused by empathy or to require empathy, at least in humans and dogs. As such a co-yawn also gives off the information that this other persons is observing you and empathizes with you, for what it’s worth.

And I think that that could well be the best explanation. Contagious yawning is behaviour that serves to provide information to those present that they are aware of each other and ‘empathizing’ in a very economic way. It is economic because none of those present has to overtly attend to the behaviour and react upon it with speech or gestures. A bonding mechanism mostly below the surface of our consciousness.

And possibly, contagious yawning is much like all sorts of other behaviour, such as mirroring. It is a kind of mirroring I suppose. But there are many other sorts of mirroring.


Here is an alternative interpretation and explanation of contagious yawning

Note that there is a considerable and growing literature on yawning, contagious yawning and how this relates to our psychology and biology. In humans, dogs, chimpansees, other apes and monkeys, birds, cats, etc.

A very interesting research case. Take any animal and see if it catches your yawn.

I’m off yawning at the chickens, bye…

Adam Hills about some BSL Signs

Here is a funny video with Adam Hills, a comedian, about the funny side of a couple of BSL signs. It is a nice illustration of ambiguity, iconicity, distinctiveness and of how people can play with signs, gestures and language.

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