Workshop On Personal Robots for Exercising

Personal Robots for Exercising and Coaching

Workshop in conjunction with HRI Conference 2018, Chicago, IL, USA

About the Workshop

Exercise training is strongly recommended for prevention and treatment of pathologies with high prevalence such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statest that insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. 25% of the adult population and 80% of the world's adolescent population are insufficiently physically active. The decrease of physical activity in our society is not just an individual problem but it is influenced by a variety of environmental and social factors. Hence, it is important to target this problem from multi-perspective and interdisciplinary point of view. This full-day workshop will offer a forum for researchers from a variety of backgrounds (i.e. physiotherapist, psychologist, computer scientist, clinical researchers, industry) to discuss the potentials and limitations of using social robots to promote physical activity and support people to be more active. Looking across disciplinary boundaries we hope to establish a common understanding of the needs for potential target groups. We invite participants to share their experiences on the requirements and challenges implementing and deploying robot coaches that could motivate people to start and adhere to a physical activity program.

Table Setting

There are four major questions we want to target with this workshop: a) What are the perceptional, interactional and design requirements for coaching robots? b) What (motivational) benefits can social robots offer compared to active video games or virtual agents? c) What requirements do social robots need to fulfill to be used as tools in therapy or to deploy them as consumer products? d) What are the potential use cases and markets for robots that promote physical activity?

We will try to group the invited speeches and contributed talks around these question and plan sufficient time for interactive discussions. The goal of this workshop is to collect the state of the art on social robots coaching and promoting physical activity. Furthermore, we want to collect the current challenges and requirements for such robots to be implemented as a therapeutic tool or daily exercising companion. Concluding, we want to draw a road map leading to the next steps that should be addresses by researchers and engineers for building robot companions to help people stay healthy and active.

Invited Speakers


Tony Belpaeme is Professor of Cognitive Systems and Robotics at Plymouth University. He is associated with the Cognition Institute and the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems. He is a member of the College of the EPSRC. His research interests include social systems, cognitive robotics, and artificial intelligence in general. Until April 2005 he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Flemish fund for scientific research (FWO Vlaanderen), and was affiliated with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, directed by Luc Steels, at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He held a guest professorship at the same university, where he taught introductory artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. Starting from the premise that intelligence is rooted in social interaction, Tony and team try to further the science and technology behind artificial intelligence and social robots. This results in a spectrum of results, from theoretical insights to practical applications. The theoretical insights, in which he argues that interaction is central to natural and artificial cognition and that robots and machines should be sensitive to language and paralinguistic social mechanisms used by people, has drawn considerable academic attention. He complements his work by applying these insights in the design and implementation of robots and robotic applications. Recently this work has led to a spin-off company (Syntheligence) and to the uptake of this research in clinical practice, in which robots are used to complement the support and education of hospitalised children. His research is regularly used as a showcase of funding success by various funding agencies, most recently the Research Councils UK, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the European Commission. The combination of both theoretical cognitive systems research applied to topics with societal relevance has gained him an international reputation. His research has been exhibited at the Natural History Museum London, the Wellcome Trust, the London Science Museum, and the National Space Centre. He has featured in IEEE Spectrum, the Communications of the ACM, and Scientific American. In 2012 his work was named as one of “ten life-changing ideas under research at UK universities” by Research Councils UK, and in 2014 his work was lauded as one of “20 new ideas from the UK that will change the world“.


Social robots hold considerable promise as support tools during exercise, therapy and education: we will look at what makes robots particularly suitable and how we can design robots and their behaviour to be effective. This talk will present results from two research projects, one in which we use social robots as therapeutical support in Autism Spectrum Disorder interventions with children, and one in which we use social robots for education. We show how a number of themes cut across various application domains and sketch some directions for future research.


Marcela Múnera is an assistant professor in Biomedical engineering at Colombian School of Engineering Julio Garavito. Her research interests are biomechanics, movement analysis and assessment in rehabilitation and sports. She received her PhD in Biomechanics from Université de Reims Champagne Ardenne (France) thanks to a FEDER, Region Champagne Ardenne– Doctoral Grant. She graduated as a Bioengineer from Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia) and from the École Nationale d'Ingénieurs de Metz (France) with a Masters in Mechanics. During her PhD and as a Lecturer at Université de Reims Champagne Ardenne, she worked on industrial research projects in the field of biomechanical assessment of sports performance and injury prevention, using wearable sensors to understand human effects of vibratory and dynamic responses. Currently, her research involves the design of experimental protocols to evaluate effects of human-robot interventions, in order to understand human factors by means of measuring human performance, engagement and improvements during real interventions. At this time, she is studying the objective assessment of the intervention of robotic devices and agents in different scenarios, such as: gait rehabilitation and assistance, cardiac rehabilitation and cognitive rehabilitation.


Physical, physiological and psychological human aspects help us understand the effects of training performing sports or during therapy sessions. This talk will address different studies from sports to human-robot interaction, in which the performance, motivation and response of the subjects are measured. Additionally, this talk will show recent findings in human factors that open opportunities for the use of personal robots in rehabilitation scenarios.


Stephen Samendinger received his PhD in kinesiology from Michigan State University. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Masters in nurse anesthesia and practiced as a CRNA and nurse (as well as other clinical and non-clinical roles in healthcare) prior to his focus on studying the psychosocial aspects of physical activity and health. His research involves studying the effect of group dynamics, self-efficacy, and social influence on healthy lifestyles motivation. His projects have included applying group dynamics to active video games, as well as mobile applications, with real and virtual partners to increase physical activity and enhance health. Other research interests involve understanding differences in motivation by studying how we interpret our social environment and form beliefs and associated conscious and nonconscious goal pursuits.


Evidence suggests that exercising with companions or in small groups may exert a significant influence on one’s physical activity behavior, including the initiation, persistence, and intensity of activity. This may be true for some small groups (two or more) in which the exercisers simply work out near each other without coordinating the exercise or sharing exercise goals. However, a compelling line of research has demonstrated that exercising with an interdependent companion and working toward a team goal may result in performance motivation gains above those working individually or in non-interdependent groups. This presentation will review this research that began outside of exercise settings in experimental social psychology, but has most recently adapted this motivation gain effect to exergame contexts and software-generated exercise partners. Emphasis is placed on the important role that the group’s exercise task and structure has on harnessing dynamics within the group to enhance motivation. Other individual and group motivation principles and their applications are included as well to encourage a discussion regarding the potential of adapting these factors for use with social robots to promote physical activity.

Call and Submission

Call for Papers

We seek contributions (i.e. research paper, position paper, system paper, design papers) concerning, but not restricted to, the following topics:

  • Applications of social robots used for promoting physical activity or rehabilitation
  • Activity recognition systems for physical activity or coaching applications
  • Role of embodiment of execising partner/instructor
  • Effectiveness of active video games/exergames compared with personals robots
  • System architectures for (robotic) coaching systems
  • Motivational and persuasive models for personal robots
  • AI methods for exercising and coaching companions
  • Preference learning and user adaptation for physical activity assistance
  • Psychological aspects of working out with robot companions
  • Studies with focus groups (i.e. elderly, children, adolescents, people with physical/cognitive impairments or cardiovascular diseases)
  • Ethical consideration of implementing assistive/persuasive robot companions
  • Potentials and limitations of using robots to promote physical activity
  • Studies on the potential markets for exercising companions
  • Medical and health related issues of physical inactivity
  • Clinical view on deploying robotic sport companions
  • Hardware designs and design requirements for personal coaching robots


Papers can be submitted via the following submission site. Please submit your paper in PDF format by the 7th of January 2018. The accepted contributions will be published as online publication with the CEUR Workshop Proceedings.

Submission guidelines

The paper format conforms roughly to an HRI submission:
The allowed length is between 4 and 6 pages (including the references) depending on the contribution of the work (position papers, previous/ongoing work or novel work). Accepted papers will be presented as a talk of about 17 minutes with 3 minutes for questions. Submitted papers should conform to the ACM publication format. ACM Categories and Subject Descriptors section and Author Keywords are mandatory to be included on the first page for your final version. The results described in the submission must not be under consideration for publication elsewhere. For templates and examples follow this link:


Submissions within the scope of the workshop will be peer-reviewed and selected based on their relevance, originality, clarity and contribution. Selected papers will require that one author registers for and attends the workshop. As opposed to the HRI 2018 main conference, there will be no rebuttal phase.


Talks length should be approximately 17 minutes so that there are 3 minutes time for questions

Preliminary schedule

Time Authors Title
09:00 Welcome and Introduction
09:05 Tony Belpaeme Social robots as therapy and education aids
09:50 João Avelino Experiments with Vizzy as a Coach for Elderly Exercise
10:10 Naomi Fitter Exercising with Baxter: Design and Evaluation of Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction
10:30 Coffee Break
11:00 Discussion Topic I
11:20 Marcela Munera Human Factors in Sports and Rehabilitation Sessions
12:05 Nathalia Céspedes Robot for Coaching during Gait Training with Lokomat: Preliminary Experiment with a Multiple Sclerosis Patient
12:25 Jonathan Casas Towards a SAR System for Personalized Cardiac Rehabilitation: A Patient with PCI
12:45 Discussion Topic II
13:00 Lunch Break
14:00 Stephen Samendinger Group Dynamics with Virtual Exercise Partners
14:45 Francisco J Rodríguez Lera Emotional Robots for Coaching: Motivating Physical Rehabilitation using Emotional Robots
15:05 Sascha Griffiths Exercise with Social Robots: Companion or Coach?
15:30 Coffee Break
16:00 Discussion Topic III
16:15 Group Discussions
17:00 Plenary Discussion
17:30 Wrap Up and Farewell


Sascha Griffiths

University of Hamburg

Stefan Wermter

University of Hamburg

Sebastian Schneider

Bielefed University

Britta Wrede

Bielefeld University

Carlos A. Cifuentes G.



Vicky Vouloutsi


Filipa Correia

GAISP, IST, Lisbon

Patrick Holthaus

Adaptive Systems Group, University of Hertfordshire

Manfred Eppe

University of Hamburg

Shelly Levy-Tzedek

Ben Gurion University

Christiana Tsuorti

TU Vienna

Frank Foerster

University of Hertfordshire

Dmitrijs Milajevs

University of Hertfordshire

Binur Görer

Boğaziçi University

Güneysu Arzu

EPFL Lausanne

German Parisi

University of Hamburg

Mathias Kerzell

University of Hamburg

Media and Material

Important Dates

January 18, 2018

Paper submission deadline

February 10, 2018

Notification of acceptance

March 1, 2018

Camera ready submission

March 5, 2018

Workshop day


HRI 2018 website

submission site


For any question about the organisation of the Workshop, please contact us by mail.