How people use theory of mind to explain robot behavior
This project is sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), who awarded me a Rubicon grant. The present research uses the study of behavior explanations —a core component of human social cognition— as a novel technique for examining people’s readiness to infer mental states from robot behavior and to manage a robot’s social standing. The proposed studies build on faculty sponsor Bertram Malle’s folk’s theory of behavior explanations, which subtly reveals people’s inferences of mental states and examines the implicit attitudes people have towards robots. Using my expertise in HRI, including survey, laboratory, and rarely used longitudinal methods, I will examine how people explain robots’ behaviors and what such explanations reveal about the cognitive and social underpinnings of human-robot relations. The results will contribute to technology design and policy direction of acceptable robot behavior.
Ethics of Human-Robot Relationships
After the recent merger of our faculty of Behavioral Sciences with the faculty of Management and Public Administration, the University of Twente initiated the Tech4People initiative to stimulate collaborations between the existing departments. My postdoc proposal on the ethics of human-robot relationships was one of those that were granted with a one-year postdoc position. The project name is ‘Human-Robot Relationships and the Good Life’ and aims to investigate whether and how the relationships some users are willing to establish with social robots may contribute to the psychological well-being of those users.
Anticipated Acceptance of Domestic Social Robots
In December 2013, an online acceptance survey was conducted among the general Dutch population to test my conceptual model of social robot acceptance for three potential future roles of domestic robots: the butler, the information source, and the companion. The butler robot was described as a servant that can do several chores in and around the home according to one’s personal preferences. The information robot was portrayed as a talking internet connected database that answers all your questions. The companion robot was defined as a sociable intellect that builds on online shared stories and with whom users can talk when feeling down or lonely. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three versions of the questionnaire.
Longitudinal Home Study
Fall 2012 I started with a longitudinal project studying the user acceptance of social robots in people’s own homes. This project was funded by the Centre of Telematics and Information Technology (CTIT; http://www.utwente.nl/ctit/). The project goal was to study the long-term user acceptance and bonding with social robots in domestic environments. For this research project, I introduced the robot Karotz (http://store.karotz.com/en_WW/) into 70 homes for a period of 6 months.
My PhD started with a collaboration in the EU funded SERA (Social Engagement with robots and Agents) project. Its aim was to advance science in the field of social acceptability of verbally interactive robots and agents, with a view to their applications especially in assistive technologies (companions, virtual butlers). To achieve this goal, the project has undertaken a field study in three iterations of each ten days to collect data of real-life interactions with robotic devices within people’s own homes. The three iterations tested different conditions (functionalities) of the equipment which consisted of a computer, sensors and a simple robotic device (the Nabaztag) as the front-end for conversational interaction. The scenario of the field study was based on health- and fitness-related applications. For more information about the SERA project see http://project-sera.eu/.