London: British scientists have found that by getting robots to "talk with their hands", we can understand them as well as we do our fellow human beings. In a study aimed at improving communication with robots, Paul Bremner from the University of the West of England and Ute Leonards from the University of Bristol focused on the hypothesis that if robots were to use "iconic" hand gestures together with speech, we would understand them more easily. Iconic gestures have a distinct meaning, like opening a door or a book, and using gestures together with speech is known as "multi-modal communication". The researchers in their experiment filmed an actor reading out a series of phrases while performing specific iconic gestures. They then filmed a robot using these recorded phrases and mimicking the gestures. Films of both the actor and robot were then shown to the study participants, who had to identify what the human and robot were trying to communicate. The study findings, published recently in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, showed that multi-modal communication by the robot was indeed more understandable than speech alone. The discovery assumes importance as robots are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and their use in society has been growing. Therefore communication with them is getting more important than ever, and learning how to improve this communication is a big deal.