Robotic Comfort Zones

Maxim Likhachev and Ronald C. Arkin

Mobile Robot Laboratory

College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology



This paper investigates how the psychological notion of comfort can be useful in the design of robotic systems. A review of the existing study of human comfort, especially regarding its presence in infants, is conducted with the goal being to determine the relevant characteristics for mapping it onto the robotics domain. Focus is placed on the identification of the salient features in the environment that affect the comfort level. Factors involved include current state familiarity, working conditions, the amount and location of available resources, etc. As part of our newly developed comfort function theory, the notion of an object as a psychological attachment for a robot is also introduced, as espoused in Bowlby's theory of attachment. The output space of the comfort function and its dependency on the comfort level are analyzed. The results of the derivation of this comfort function are then presented in terms of the impact they have on robotic behavior. Justification for the use of the comfort function in the domain of robotics is presented with relevance for real-world operations. Also, a transformation of the theoretical discussion into a mathematical framework suitable for implementation within a behavior-based control system is presented. The paper concludes with results of simulation studies and real robot experiments using the derived comfort function.

Keywords: Comfort zones, Comfort function, Attachment theory, Discrepancy theory, Behavior-based robotics