Researchers have created a robot that has the ability to subtly get someone's attention when it is being ignored, using a camera as its guide.

The researchers, from Georgia Institute of Technology, have programmed a robot to understand when it has gained a person's attention and when it fails to do so. The researchers are presenting their findings at the Human-Robot Interaction conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The primary focus was trying to give Simon, our robot, the ability to understand when a human being seems to be reacting appropriately, or in some sense is interested now in a response with respect to Simon and to be able to do it using a visual medium, a camera, Aaron Bobick, professor and chair of the School of Interactive Computing in Georgia Tech's College of Computing, said in a statement.

The researchers used Simon on loan from Georgia Tech's Socially Intelligent Machines lab. They did a controlled study to determine when he successfully attracted the attention of a human who was busily engaged in a task and when he had not. Simon achieved 80 percent accuracy using only his camera as a guide.

Simon would make some form of a gesture, or some form of an action when the user was present, and the computer vision task was to try to determine whether or not you had captured the attention of the human being, Bobick said.

According to Bobick, getting humans and robots to interact more successfully is critical for an effective working environment. He said the robots have to obey these same kinds of social conventions as humans in terms of interacting.

The researchers will continue their work by determining how Simon can read communication cues by studying whether he can tell by a person's gaze if that person is paying attention.