This week I pitched my PhD project in a 3 minute short presentation. See the content of the elevator pitch below.
The rise of robotics
The field of robotics is rapidly changing. There is a growing number of different types of robots, and their roles within society are expanding. Today, robots are mostly used for tasks that are dirty, dangerous or dull. However, as the capabilities of robots develop, the possibility arises that they will be able to carry out more and more difficult tasks and become our full-fledged assistants. And these robotic assistants will enter our personal spaces, such as our homes, in the not so far future.
Obstacle for success
Indeed, it has been said that we are on the edge of a robotic tipping point, similar to what personal computers went through in the 90s. But what is preventing robotics from going mainstream? Some researchers say it is not technical but human. Yes, it is us. We need to accept these robots into our everyday lives.
Long-term user acceptance
Therefore, it is increasingly important to study the attitudes we have towards robots and what makes us accept these robots in our natural environments. I argue that evaluating human-robot interaction outside the lab, in real-world contexts is necessary to understand the various social, scientific and technical concerns relevant for robotics design.
To ease interactions with robots, they are designed to interact naturally with their users using verbal and nonverbal communication. These are so called social robots.
Aim of my PhD project
My PhD focuses on the long-term acceptance of these social robots in home environments. What do we need from robots? What makes us want to use these robots? What do we want them to look like? How do we feel when we are confronted with a robot? And, do those feelings affect how we react to robots and how we think of them?
First results from long-term study
Last fall, we installed 70 robots into people’s homes to investigate long-term acceptance. Over time, people evaluate several aspect of the robot and their interaction experience more positively and they are more willing to ignore the shortcomings of the robot. People engage in social interactions with the robot, even in spite of the limited perceptive and expressive capabilities of the robot. Especially those people who are willing to form some sort of relationship with the robot were generally more ready to continue the use of the robot.
Needs for future robotics research
To facilitate successful introduction of social robots in the future, research today needs to involve the perspectives of potential users, focus on long-term use, and prefer studies within users’ own homes