Project Description

The work described below is affiliated with the R-House Human-Robot Interaction Lab, which is a collaborative research group and space that brings together faculty, research staff, and students who study human-robot interaction (HRI). HRI is a field that explores how people perceive, respond to, and interact with robots, and how to better design robots so they can be used in everyday contexts, such as the home, work, education, or healthcare. If you are interested in such topics, we invite you to join us in our studies on how people attribute lifelikeness and various social characteristics to robots. In 2019/2020, we have two larger projects that CEWIT students could work with us on, which are described below. The first project involves the design and study of intergroup interactions between people and robots. Psychological research has shown that people interact differently as individuals than they do when as members of the same or different groups. Intergroup interactions are often more competitive and negative than ingroup interactions. Through lab experiments and observational studies of HRI in public spaces, we explore how people perceive and react to groups of robots, and how to design the appearance and behavior of robots in groups so that people have a more positive perception of them. The second project is the design and study of the use of a new social robot prototype to support intergenerational interaction between older adults and children in an intergenerational daycare facility. The robot is a desktop conversational robot, and the research project explores how to design its behaviors and conversational capabilities to support people's extended interactions with it, and to motivate children and older adults to engage more with each other. We will specifically be developing appropriate conversational topic and utterances, as well as games and storytelling activities, for the robot to perform with participants, that we then evaluate in the intergenerational daycare facility with children and older adults. Research activities for undergraduates on these projects include learning how to work with, program and control robots, recruiting and scheduling participants, running participants for studies in and outside the lab, going to relevant field sites with robots to observe human-robot interaction, collecting and managing textual, audio, and video data, discussing study design, results, and implications, attending regular lab meetings, and working closely with other faculty and students engaged in the project. There is a possibility for participating students to continue working with the group following the CEWIT REUW experience through other funding sources.

Technology or Computational Component

Our research investigates the connection between robots, as embodied computing technologies, and people. While working on the project, students will become familiar with interactive robotic technologies, study how different aspects of robot design affect people's perceptions of and reactions to robots, work on controlling and programming robots, and help us develop design recommendations for future robotic technologies. We will also discuss the potential societal implications of the robotic technologies we are developing.