This thesis presents a theoretical framework for the design of user-programmable robots. The objective of the work is to investigate multi-modal unconstrained natural instructions given to robots in order to design a learning robot. A corpus-centred approach is used to design an agent that can reason, learn and interact with a human in a natural unconstrained way. The corpus-centred design approach is formalised and developed in detail. It requires the developer to record a human during interaction and analyse the recordings to find instruction primitives. These are then implemented into a robot. The focus of this work has been on how to combine speech and gesture using rules extracted from the analysis of a corpus. A multi-modal integration algorithm is presented, that can use timing and semantics to group, match and unify gesture and language. The algorithm always achieves correct pairings on a corpus and initiates questions to the user in ambiguous cases or missing information. The domain of card games has been investigated, because of its variety of games which are rich in rules and contain sequences. A further focus of the work is on the translation of rule-based instructions. Most multi-modal interfaces to date have only considered sequential instructions. The combination of frame-based reasoning, a knowledge base organised as an ontology and a problem solver engine is used to store these rules. The understanding of rule instructions, which contain conditional and imaginary situations require an agent with complex reasoning capabilities. A test system of the agent implementation is also described. Tests to confirm the implementation by playing back the corpus are presented. Furthermore, deployment test results with the implemented agent and human subjects are presented and discussed. The tests showed that the rate of errors that are due to the sentences not being defined in the grammar does not decrease by an acceptable rate when new grammar is introduced. This was particularly the case for complex verbal rule instructions which have a large variety of being expressed.

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