An Approach to Deploy Interactive Robotic Simulators on the Web for HRI Experiments: Results in Social Robot Navigation
IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2021
Evaluation of social robot navigation inherently requires human input due to its qualitative nature. Motivated by the need to scale human evaluation, we propose a general method for deploying interactive, rich-client robotic simulations on the web. Prior approaches implement specific web-compatible simulators or provide tools to build a simulator for a specific study. Instead, our approach builds on standard Linux tools to share a graphical desktop with remote users. We leverage these tools to deploy simulators on the web that would typically be constrained to desktop computing environments. As an example implementation of our approach, we introduce the SEAN Experimental Platform (SEAN-EP). With SEAN-EP, remote users can virtually interact with a mobile robot in the Social Environment for Autonomous Navigation, without installing any software on their computer or needing specialized hardware. We validated that SEAN-EP could quickly scale the collection of human feedback and its usability through an online survey. In addition, we compared human feedback from participants that interacted with a robot using SEAN-EP with feedback obtained through a more traditional video survey. Our results suggest that human perceptions of robots may differ based on whether they interact with the robots in simulation or observe them in videos. Also, they suggest that people perceive the surveys with interactive simulations as less mentally demanding than video surveys.