Object handovers: a review for robotics

Valerio Ortenzi, Akansel Cosgun, Tommaso Pardi, Wesley P. Chan, Elizabeth Croft, Dana Kulic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article surveys the literature on human–robot object handovers. A handover is a collaborative joint action, where an agent, the giver, gives an object to another agent, the receiver. The physical exchange starts when the receiver first contacts the object held by the giver and ends when the giver fully releases the object to the receiver. However, important cognitive and physical processes begin before the physical exchange, including initiating implicit agreement with respect to the location and timing of the exchange. From this perspective, we structure our review into the two main phases delimited by the aforementioned events: a prehandover phase and the physical exchange. We focus our analysis on the two actors (giver and receiver) and report the state of the art of robotic givers (robot-to-human handovers) and the robotic receivers (human-to-robot handovers). We report a comprehensive list of qualitative and quantitative metrics commonly used to assess the interaction. While focusing our review on the cognitive level (e.g., prediction, perception, motion planning, and learning) and the physical level (e.g., motion, grasping, and grip release) of the handover, we also discuss safety. We compare the behaviors displayed during human-to-human handovers to the state of the art of robotic assistants and identify the major areas of improvement for robotic assistants to reach performance comparable to human interactions. Finally, we propose a minimal set of metrics that should be used in order to enable a fair comparison among the approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 May 2021


  • Human–robot interaction (HRI)
  • object handover

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