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ICSR Video and Roundup

I enjoyed the International Conference on Social Robotics a great deal, and I would now love to attend another robotics conference. Unfortunately, I’m still unsure about whether any paper I pitched would make it through review, because it would likely be so radically different from most of the papers being submitted. I suspect I will need to look for other opportunities like the Robots and Art workshop to help me with this, by allowing my work to exist on the edge of a main conference programme. The video of my presentation has now been uploaded online:

All the presentations from the workshop are available here.

Although not all of the research discussed during the rest of the conference was of direct interest to me, there were lots of things that I will take away from the papers that were presented and the posters that I saw. I’m planning on writing about some of the designs and concepts I saw here early next year.

It was clear to me as the conference progressed that my home really was at the Robots and Art: Misbehaving Machines workshop. All of the presentations on the workshop day were thought-provoking for me, and I loved the mix of art, design, technology and broad ideas about social interaction with humans. It was particularly good to present to some of people whose robots have inspired me to think and write about communication in recent years, and it was even better to find that they appreciated my analysis.

Although I have met Mari Velonaki twice before, it was great to see her again, and to hear a little about her more recent projects and the new collaborative laboratory venture that has just begun. I’m definitely planning another trip to Sydney so that I can catch up with Mari again properly and see what’s going on for myself.

Another high point was meeting Guy Hoffman, and actually getting to talk to him at some length about fluency and interruption in communicating with robots of all different forms. I was greatly relieved to find that my understanding of his robotic desk lamp AUR’s interactions with humans was broadly correct, but I was also interested to gain a new insight into the underlying rhythm that was at work behind its responses to the task and a human’s instructions.

Re-evaluating the form and communication of social robots

As promised here is my video presentation for Robo-philosophy 2014. This is based on a full length paper that I have written for a special issue of the International Journal of Social Robotics. The special issue should be published sometime in, or possibly before, early 2015.

Re-evaluating the form and communication of social robots presented by Eleanor Sandry (Robo-Philosophy 2014) from Eleanor Sandry on Vimeo.

In this paper, I re-evaluate what constitutes a social robot by employing a range of communication theories, alongside ideas of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism, to analyse how different forms of robot are interpreted as socially aware and communicative. A critical assessment of the development of humanlike and animal-like robotic companions is juxtaposed with a consideration of human relations with machine-like robots in working partnerships.

Although some traditions of communication theory offer perspectives that support the development of humanlike and animal-like social robots, these perspectives have been criticised by communication scholars as unethically closed to the possibilities of otherness and difference. However, an analysis of human relations with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robots and with AUR, the robotic desk lamp, demonstrates that machine-like robots are interpreted by humans as social and communicative others. This interpretation is supported by processes of tempered anthropomorphism and/or zoomorphism, which allow people to communicate with machine-like robots while also ensuring that a sense of the otherness of the machine and respect for its non-human abilities is retained.

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