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Chapter 7. Robot Sound in Distributed Audio Environments

Authors: Frederic Anthony Robinson, Mari Velonaki and Oliver Bown

Abstract: While a robot’s ability to listen spatially has been an active field of research for a while, robots emitting spatial sound have received significantly less attention. With the growing availability of audio-enabled networked devices in the home, facilitated by the Internet of Things, future homes will likely feature distributed audio environments, and robots will be able to emit sound across these. In this chapter, we therefore ask, how a robot’s auditory communication might be enhanced by being distributed across loudspeakers in the environment. To explore this question, we first conduct interviews with researchers and practitioners with distributed audio and sound installation experience, identifying design themes for applying interactive sound installation techniques in the context of human-robot interaction. These insights, combined with the authors’ own expertise in interactive immersive audio environments, then inform the creation of a virtual distributed robot sound prototype, a process which includes the ideation and realization of spatial robot sound. After presenting the prototype and its design process, we reflect on lessons learned and propose a generalized design framework for spatial robot sound. We argue that spatial robot sound can be broken down into three key locations - the robot, objects of interest in the environment, and the space itself - and that transitions between these locations create spatial relationships which are relevant to HRI scenarios.