Many roboticists argue from a communication science perspective that building humanoid robots with expressive human-like faces is the only way to support meaningful human-robot communication.  However, this paper contends that robots with radically other forms and expressive abilities offer valuable alternative ways to support human-robot interactions and that analysing these interactions can shed light on the workings of human communication more generally.

Encounters between selves and others in which the other retains a level of difference are theorised within the phenomenological tradition of communication.  However, the explanations of this tradition can seem idealistic and inapplicable to the dilemmas of everyday communication. This paper therefore draws on the practical nature of Donna Haraway’s concept of “companion species” and extends her ideas to explore human interactions with robots that are radically other.  This discussion attempts to bridge the gap between communication science and phenomenological theory, to begin to develop an understanding of communication that remains sympathetic to the concerns of the phenomenological tradition, while providing workable ways to understand everyday interactions between all kinds of selves and others.