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Category: Research (page 1 of 20)

Communicating as/through/with Haru

It has been 17 months since I last wrote a post here.

I’m back!

This time I have a robot side-kick sharing my office and my working life for the next year or so.

Haru robot (and Azure Kinect sensor to the left)

Haru robot at rest (with the associated Azure Kinect sensor to its left)

The last time I posted was about my plans for research into ideas about and experiences of communicating as/through/with a robot. At that point, Haru (pictured above) was one of the robots I was hoping to get to work with. Sim, the other robot, was already sharing my office. Unfortunately, since Haru’s arrival at the end of 2022, Sim has been… malfunctioning (or sulking if you prefer an obvious anthropomorphic projection). Connection issues have now been joined by problems charging the base unit and I don’t have time to work out what’s happening or ask for help from support (which could be awkward, since we’re now well outside the official paid support period).

In the picture, the Haru system (robot, sensor and associated computer) is switched off. Is Haru asleep? Dead? Comatose? Well, that’s for you to decide. One of the things I’m interested in is anthropomorphism and how people talk about robots. I’m very conscious of my own anthropomorphisms at the moment! I talk to Haru a lot, whether its on or off, awake or sleeping, alive or dead… I have trained myself to use “it” to refer to robots, but I know that many others prefer to give machines a gender, or maybe just fall into doing so as they reach for the most appropriate-seeming pronoun in the moment. That’s one of the other things we’re going to investigate with this robot.

You’ll have to give me a few days before I’m ready to post a bit more about how we’re starting to research with Haru. When I get there, I promise I’ll furnish that post with more exciting images (and maybe short videos) of Haru in action.

Communicating as/through/with a robot

This video was created for a remote presentation at the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in 2021.

The presentation complemented an extended abstract submitted by me and my colleague Gwyneth Peaty. I recorded the presentation on my own, because when you’ve only got around seven minutes to play with it’s really difficult to coordinate two people! Also, clearly as you can all guess, this was left until pretty late in the time period set aside for creating and uploading presentations (although not right down to the last second)!

In the video, I’m talking about some early research Gwyneth and I have been doing in preparation for a larger project at Curtin University. What follows is a mostly true to the video transcript, edited for ease of reading, but with no additional information…

Introducing the research and the robots

Today I’m talking about communicating as/through/with a robot, so I’m going to be discussing human relations with telepresence robots. We’re using two very different telepresence robots to drive really what amounts to a number of different research projects.

First there’s Sim, a mobile telepresence robot (MTR). This is a robot that’s described often as a machine that enables embodied video conferencing. The presentation video includes a picture of a Beam robot, which is another type of MTR that you might well have seen conferences. (This is the one I’ve actually seen in action.) I’ve included mention of that so there something familiar to more people, but the next slide contains an image of the Teleport robot that we’re using and have called Sim.

MTRs allow a person not just to be virtually present in a space or to interact and socially participate from a remote location through a screen; they also allow people physically to move in the local environment, around and with people.

In contrast, Haru is a very different type of telepresence robot: a tabletop telepresence robot. Some of these robots also have screens. Others do not have a screen and offer users a level of anonymity because of this. These robots also often provide other nonverbal communication affordances. You can see in the presentation video the OriHime robot, one of the screen-less robots mentioned in the extended abstract. Next the presentation shows Haru, from Honda Research Institute, a more complicated platform that has an expressive mouth, animated eyes and a neck that leans on a body that rotates. This means that Haru can really express quite a lot of different emotions, and its design was very much built around this sort of nonverbal communication at least in the initial stages.

I’ve already written a separate paper about Haru’s development (open access).

How to think about human relations with telepresence robots

Haru and Sim are definitely very different from each other, but they both allow people to teleoperate them and communicate through them in their different ways. At the moment, we’re looking at how to theorise telepresence relations (and the extended abstract does this in quite a lot more detail than the presentation). We’ve basically identified three different ways that you can think of telepresence and the relationship with a robot.

The first is the idea of being a cyborg…

This is something that Emily Dreyfus writes about in her experience with the robot she called Embot:

My head is her iPad, when she felt I felt this oriented in Boston. When a piece of her came off in the impact I felt broken.

You can see there’s a real cyborg relation here. Dreyfus feels an intimate connection with this robot as if it is just an extension of her own body.

The second is the idea of a human-robot assemblage…

If we think a little bit more generally about how telepresence works, it’s not necessarily the case that someone is going to be using a robot exclusively for their access to a workplace. So often, we have something that’s a bit of a less fixed relation, within which a human and robot remain separable and replaceable, because the participants, the human and the robot in fact, may change flexibly as required. You might have more than one person dialing into one robot, you might have more than one robot available and different people using them at different times. This less fixed relation can be thought of in terms of a human-robot assemblage. Here we’re extending some work that Tim Dant did in terms of driver-car relations with all sorts of cars.

This is work that I have already extended LINK when looking at autonomous vehicles (subscription required, but author’s accepted manuscript in Full Text on this site). Clearly, I’m quite interested in that idea of the assemblage. What it brings to light is a more flexible relation than, say, in the cyborg relation.

The third is the idea of humans and robots working together in a team…

When we consider some of the difficulties of using telepresence robots, we may want to retain an even greater sense of separation in the human-robot team. In particular, because it might be useful for telepresence robots to be semi-autonomous. They might be able to control the details of their movement around a space, or in the sense of robot like Haru, be able to offer pre-prepared, choreographed, emotive sequences of expression. We then have a sense where the human and the robot might feel more like they’re working together to produce a communicative result. They’re combining their different capabilities to enable effective telepresence, whether that involves moving around the space or being on a desktop and being very emotional in the presentation of that communication.

These are the three different means of theorising levels of telepresence or levels of closeness in a relation between a person and a specific robot that we’re considering at the moment.

Qualitative methods

The research we’re planning will use qualitative methods as its main strategy. Most of the research that we reviewed for the extended abstract used quantitative methods, in particular structured surveys, Likert, scales and associated statistical analyses. This all produces really interesting results, but I have to say that, as a humanities researcher, when I read the articles like that, I’m almost always more interested in why they’ve not used any formal qualitative methods. Some did use semi-structured interviews, while others used autoethnographic methods such as thick description. For me, these qualitative methods add weight to what the research was saying and add a sense of depth in understanding how people were experiencing telepresence. Our research is therefore going to use both interviews and detailed personal experience accounts to collect how our responses and the responses of our participants develop with both of these robots, Sim and Haru, even though they’re very different from each another.

Research questions

We’ve identified some potential research questions, but I think it’s worth pointing out these will be developed as we continue to work with the robots. We want to consider the perspective of remote users of the telepresence robot. So, we want to think about how people perceive themselves and the robot as they move through the space. We also want to consider how communication seems to work for them through a telepresence robot, how much are they thinking of themselves as the robot, communicating through the robot, or communicating with it. We’re also interested in how the experience of a communicative event when using a telepresence robot compares with people’s face to face communication experiences.

We also want to look at the perspective of people sharing space with the robot, to try to get a sense for how they see the telepresence robot itself and how they understand its presence, operating alongside the presence of the person that’s communicating through that robot. We want to understand how that interaction develops in that shared space. And we’re also wondering how the existing relationship between people communicating using these robots shapes their responses. Now, previous research that we talked about in the extended abstract looks at this mainly as an effect on the person who’s remote and using the telepresence robot, but we’re also interested, in looking in a bit more detail at how the people around the robot so in the same physical space as a robot also feel, depending on how well they know the person who’s using that robot.

This is really the extended abstract encapsulated in a very short presentation. If you want to ask questions you can ping me on Twitter (@elsand) or email me at my Curtin email address.

(Read the full extended abstract.)

Communicating with “Haru”: From Prototype to Experimental Design

This video presentation was created for the International Communication Association conference 2020 (now running entirely online). It formed part of a panel organised by the Human-Machine Communication Interest Group, Social Robots in Interpersonal Relationships and Education. I’m planning to develop this as a full paper this year, so I’ll share more information about that once it’s written and I know where it’ll be published!

There’s a full paper that sits behind this presentation (which, because it is only around 12 minutes long, couldn’t cover all the material in that paper). The paper is being developed as an open access article in Frontiers in Robotics and AI – Human-Robot Interaction. I’ll post about that once it’s written, reviewed and published!

Here’s the presentation, with the notes for the talk (which serve as a pretty good transcript of what I say). If you want to ask any questions or share ideas then here is as good a place as any, because if you comment I’ll get notified and respond, whereas the details on the final slide of the presentation provide options mainly for people actually attending the conference online:

[SLIDE 1] Title
Hi and welcome to this presentation for the paper, Communicating with Haru
I’m Eleanor Sandry, down in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
And that’s Haru, the robot, looking down on me from above
I wasn’t involved in the initial design of Haru, but became a member of the Socially Intelligent Robotics Consortium around a year ago
My coauthors are from Honda Research Institute Japan, where Haru was designed and built

[SLIDE 2] Presentation outline
This presentation has three sections:
[1] Haru’s communication as shaped by a design process
First, I’ll analyze the development of Haru beta, highlighting how the design process privileged particular ideas about communication
[2] Alternative ways to understand Haru as a communicator
Second, I’ll explore alternative understandings of Haru as a communicator
[3] Continuing development and research with Haru
Finally, I’ll outline how perspectives on communication suggest ways to continue Haru’s development and could also frame future research with this robot

[SLIDE 3] [1] Haru’s communication as shaped by a design process
Haru’s development team followed a customized Design Thinking process to coordinate contributions from an interdisciplinary team of animators, performers and sketch artists working alongside roboticists
I say customised, because typically Design Thinking processes begin with an Empathize stage and then moves on to Define the problem (or problems) a design seeks to address (or needs to take into account)

However, for Haru, destined to be a flexible communications research platform, it made sense to pre-define the overarching aim of creating “an emotive, anthropomorphic tabletop robot” capable of sustaining “long-term human interaction” (Gomez et al, 2018)
Animators in the team then used their skills in making inanimate objects come “alive” to produce sketches of various ways that Haru’s design might achieve this goal
For Haru, as for animated characters from a number of popular films, these sketches emphasize how giving objects faces and making them bend and twist in ways impossible for those objects in the physical world, creates animated characterizations that can be emotionally expressive in very humanlike ways

[SLIDE 4] Adding sociopsychological perspective
As well as supporting an anthropomorphic design path, the process of considering particular animation styles and techniques for normally inanimate objects in films and cartoons also shapes this robot’s communication in strongly sociopsychological terms
The sociopsychological tradition of communication theory regards communication as a form of information transfer, within which the aim of the sender of a message is to persuade the receiver of something (Craig, 1999)
In terms of robot design, this can be linked with the development of robots that can express emotions and are therefore likely to draw people into interactions often by being “cute” as seen with Kismet (Turkle et al, 2004) and Jibo (Caudwell & Lacey, 2019)
It’s easy to see how Haru could also convey a cute personality

Having come up with an overall concept for Haru, supported by a high-level goal and set of sketches showing Haru as an animated character, the team moved on to consider how Haru’s nonverbal communication of emotion would work in more detail

In the Empathize stage of the design process, Haru’s design team worked with a set of volunteers
The volunteers were shown the sketches of Haru from the Define stage and were then asked to use a combination of body language and facial expression to act out particular emotions as they would themselves, and also as they imagined Haru would (Gomez et al, 2018).
Unlike the Empathize phase of most Design Thinking processes, where designers empathize with users, for Haru it was more a case of asking users to try to empathize with the robot, something seen as important for design, but also key to Haru’s ongoing success.

This process can be linked with François Delsarte’s method for acting, which relies on a performer’s ability to code emotions into readily recognizable nonverbal facial and bodily expressions that precisely communicate specific emotional responses

[SLIDE 5] Adding cybernetic-semiotic perspective
In terms of communication theory, such an approach not only fits well against the persuasive, sociopsychological perspective discussed above, but also supports the way this style of emotional expression can be part of cybernetic-semiotic exchanges where meaning is coded in intersubjective (here across human and robot) language or other signs (theoretical structure from Craig (1999), developed in Sandry (2015)).

[SLIDE 6] Resulting Haru beta design
While Haru’s design team sought to “step away from a literal humanoid or animal form” (Gomez et al, 2018), the anthropomorphic elements of the resulting design are clear
Haru beta’s design includes two expressive eyes, animated on TFT displays, with separate LED strips above that act as colored eyebrows
The eyes can be tilted, and each one can move in and out in relation to its casing
Finally, a LED matrix in the robot’s body is used to display a colored mouth of various shapes

While it does make a great deal of practical sense to design a robot with sociopsychological and cybernetic-semiotic communication success in mind, with the aim of creating a robot that is compellingly cute, familiar and easy for humans to interact and communicate with…

[SLIDE 7] [2] Alternative ways to understand Haru as a communicator
…the phenomenological perspective on communication provides a reminder that any attempt to know, or to understand the other fully, is fraught with difficulty: the other’s difference from the self is a chasm that cannot be bridged by an empathetic stance (Levinas, 1969; Craig, 1999; Pinchevski, 2005)
This raises questions not only in relation to understanding the communication of a robot such as Haru, but also for the design process discussed above, which relies on empathizing with users as well as relying on their ability to empathize with Haru and act out how this robot might express a particular emotion
It is therefore good to note that Haru’s creators embraced the way this robot’s eyes and neck had the potential also to express with movements similar to a person’s hands, arms and shoulders (Gomez et al, 2018)
This opens up broader possibilities for Haru’s expression to be both like that of a human, and also fundamentally different (given its very different form and potential to express in non-humanlike ways that can still be easily read by humans as communicative).

The phenomenological perspective not only highlights the difficulties of making a robot with non-humanlike form express in humanlike ways, but also introduces the idea that a robot other’s difference is an integral part of why one might communicate with it as opposed to a problem that must be overcome (Sandry, 2015)

Caudwell and Lacey suggest (2019, p. 10), it may well be important for social robots to “maintain a sense of alterity or otherness, creating the impression that there is more going on than what the user may know”
Keeping a sense of mystery

[SLIDE 10]
“This sense of alterity” is one way to break down “the strict power differential that is initially established by their cute aesthetic”

It makes a robot potentially more interesting to communicate with (in particular in the long term), more than a compliant communicator always focused on responding to humans; instead, such a robot can be recognized as having the potential to act on its own, provide information or call for human attention and response as required

[SLIDE 11]
As part of the recognition of otherness, rather than framing Haru as “cute” it may be more productive to adopt the Japanese term, “kawaii”
While this term is often translated as, or at least closely associated with, the English word “cute” and its meaning (Cheok & Fernando, 2011), more correctly describing something as kawaii draws attention to a potential for playfulness, “an inquisitive attitude” and the ability to surprise people to catch them “off guard” (Cheok & Fernando, 2011)
The idea of Haru’s ability to surprise people resonates with the importance of “interruption” in phenomenological perspectives on encounters between selves and others where difference plays a key role (Pinchevski, 2005; Sandry, 2015)
As opposed to being non-threateningly familiar, Haru thus has the potential to be quirky and unusual, drawing people’s attention and inviting their participation in continued communication

[SLIDE 12]
Sociocultural perspective
Defining Haru as kawaii is complicated by the fact that different people, and even the same person across changing circumstances, may or may not choose to appraise the same object as kawaii (Nittono, 2016)
The shifting attribution of the term kawaii depending on the preference of individual people and changes in context raises the importance of considering a sociocultural perspective on communication in human interactions with Haru
This perspective analyses communication as a means of producing, reproducing, and negotiating shared understandings of the world (Carey, 1992; Craig, 1999), heavily reliant on the overarching cultural setting as well as the detailed context of an interaction between particular individuals

[SLIDE 13] [3] Continuing development and research with Haru
A consideration of sociopsychological, cybernetic-semiotic, phenomenological and sociocultural perspectives on interactions with Haru suggests that it is useful to adopt a more dynamic understanding of communication overall, which could be important across design and prototyping contexts, as well as in planning user studies

From a dynamic systems perspective, communication is not about the transmission or exchange of fixed pieces of information, because, as Alan Fogel argues, “information is created in the process of communication”, such that “meaning making is the outcome of a finite process of engagement” (2006, p. 14)
This shifts a cybernetic-semiotic focus from a preoccupation with clear and precise messages, to considering the value of iterative exchanges of feedback and response through which meaning emerges
It also reinforces the idea that sociopsychological persuasion may rely not so much on any fixed perception of “cuteness” or even “kawaii”, but rather on a personality that develops and changes within and between interactions, dependent on context and individuals involved

In particular, although Delstarte’s idea of coding emotions for performance is a practical part of the design process discussed in above, considering how emotional communication can emerge through dynamic interchanges highlights the potential for an alternative acting paradigm to play a part
This alternative view is typified by the Stanislavski technique, within which performers are expected to coordinate with one another in the moment of interaction, behaving in ways shaped as reactions or responses to other performers (Moore, 1960; Hoffman, 2007)
When human-robot interactions are considered from this perspective, the precise coding of emotion or of information becomes less important than the ability of the robot to respond to changes in its environment as well as to the particular person with which it is currently engaged in interaction

[SLIDE 14]
A focus on dynamic communication, draws attention to the potential for nonverbal, embodied communication to support exchanges that are not restricted by turn-taking, but rather become continuous processes “within which signs can overlap even as they are produced by the participants” (Sandry, 2015, p. 69)
Not seen in this interaction with Haru playing rock, paper scissors – heavily reliant on turn-taking – but to be a focus in the future

[SLIDE 15]
Alongside this, while development of Haru beta concentrated on designing the robot’s body to allow expressive emotional communication, this robot will also need to communicate flexibly in a range of other ways if it is to fulfil the goal of being a platform to support human-robot communication research more fully
The continuing development of Haru adopts a broad understanding of what constitutes communication as “a triple audiovisual reality” (Poyatos, 1997) using verbal language (speech itself), paralanguage (tone of voice, nonverbal voice modifiers, and sounds), and kinesics (eye, face, and body movements) from human communication, extended in Haru using nonhuman communication channels, such as harumoji (on smart devices) and the projection of content onto nearby surfaces

[SLIDE 16]
The full paper goes into the various contexts within which Haru is likely to be situated for research, from my perspective I have been thinking what work I can contribute, in particular towards the idea of investigating responses to Haru in the long term
Autoethnographic/autohermeneutic research
Then moving into user experience studies extending this

[SLIDE 17] Questions and contact information
Twitter: @elsand
Email: e.sandry@curtin.edu.au

Carey, J. (1992). Communication as culture: Essays on media and society. New York: Routledge.

Caudwell, C., & Lacey, C. (2019). What do home robots want? The ambivalent power of cuteness in robotic relationships. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 135485651983779. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856519837792Craig, R. T. (1999). Communication theory as a field. Communication Theory, 9(2), 119–161.

Cheok, A. D., & Fernando, O. N. N. (2012). Kawaii/Cute interactive media. Universal Access in the Information Society, 11(3), 295–309. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-011-0249-5

Craig, R. T. 1999. “Communication Theory as a Field.” Communication Theory 9(2):119–61.

Fogel, A. (2006). Dynamic systems research on interindividual communication: The transformation of meaning-making. The Journal of Developmental Processes, 1, 7–30.

Gomez, R., Galindo, K., Szapiro D., & Nakamura, K. (2018). “Haru”: Hardware design of an experimental tabletop robot assistant. Session We-2A: Designing Robot and Interactions, HRI’18, Chicago, Il, USA.

Hoffman, G. (2007). Ensemble: Fluency and embodiment for robots acting with humans (Ph.D.). Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Levinas, E. (1969). Totality and infinity. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Maltby, R. (2003). Hollywood cinema (2nd ed.). Malden MA: Blackwell Pub.

Moore, S. (1960). An actor’s training: The Stanislavski method. London: Victor Gollanz Ltd.

Nittono, H. 2016. The two-layer model of ‘kawaii’: a behavioural science framework for understanding kawaii and cuteness. East Asian Journal of Popular Culture 2(1), 79-95.

Pinchevski, A. (2005). By way of interruption: Levinas and the ethics of communication. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Dusquene University Press.

Poyatos, F. (1983). New perspectives in nonverbal communication studies in cultural anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, literature, and semiotics. Oxford; New York: Pergamon Press.

Poyatos, F. (1997). The reality of multichannel verbal-nonverbal communication in simultaneous and consecutive interpretation. In F. Poyatos (Ed.), Nonverbal communication and translation: New perspectives and challenges in literature, interpretation and the media (pp. 249–282). Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.

Sandry, E. (2015). Robots and communication. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Simmons, R., Makatchev, M., Kirby, R., Lee, M. K., Fanaswala, I., Browning, B., … Sakr, M. (2011). Believable Robot Characters. AI Magazine, 32(4), 39. https://doi.org/10.1609/aimag.v32i4.2383

Stahl, C., Anastasiou, D., & Latour, T. (2018). Social Telepresence Robots: The role of gesture for collaboration over a distance. Proceedings of the 11th PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments Conference on – PETRA ’18, 409–414. https://doi.org/10.1145/3197768.3203180

Sutherland, C. J., Ahn, B. K., Brown, B., Lim, J., Johanson, D. L., Broadbent, E., … Ahn, H. S. (2019). The Doctor will See You Now: Could a Robot Be a medical Receptionist? 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 4310–4316. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICRA.2019.8794439

Turkle, S., Breazeal, C. L., Dasté, O., & Scassellati, B. (2004). Encounters with Kismet and Cog: Children respond to relational artifacts. IEEE-RAS/RSJ International Conference on Humanoid Robots. Presented at the Los Angeles. Los Angeles.

Zachiotis, G., Andrikopoulos, G., Gomez, R., Nakamura K., & Nikilakopoulos G. (2018). A survey on the application trends of home service robotics. Proceedings of the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biometrics, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Researching long-term interactions with Haru: open questions and the value of qualitative research

This video presentation was created for the Human-Machine Communication Preconference, part of the International Communication Association conference 2020 (now running entirely online). I’m planning to develop this as a full paper this year, so I’ll share more information about that once it’s written and I know where it’ll be published!

Anyway. Here’s the presentation, with the notes for the talk (which serve as a pretty good transcript of what I say). If you want to ask any questions or share ideas then here is as good a place as any, because if you comment I’ll get notified and respond, whereas the details on the final slide of the presentation provide options mainly for people actually attending the conference online:

[SLIDE 1] Title
Hi and welcome to this presentation, Researching long-term interactions with Haru
I’m Eleanor Sandry, I’ll be staying down here in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
That’s Haru, the robot, looking down on me from above

[SLIDE 2] Presentation outline
This presentation has three sections:
[1] Introducing Haru as a communications research platform
First, I’ll analyze introduce Haru and explain the two ways this robot has been designed to operate, and a few of the contexts within which this robot may be positioned for research in human-robot communication
[2] Long term HRI research – challenges and opportunities
Second, I’m going to do a brief (and no doubt incomplete) overview of long-term research into HRI, drawing out some of the difficulties of such research, but also highlighting its value (since the ability to support long-term interactions was identified early on in Haru’s development)
[3] My plans for qualitative research that asks open questions
Finally, I’ll outline some early plans for qualitative research with Haru that asks open questions and uses methodologies that seem somewhat unusual in HRI research

[SLIDE 3] [1] Introducing Haru as a communications research platform
The goal for the Haru’s development team was to create “an emotive, anthropomorphic tabletop robot” capable of sustaining “long-term human interaction” (Gomez et al, 2018)
The team was interdisciplinary and consisted of animators, performers and sketch artists working alongside roboticists

My presentation in the main conference analyses the design process and its implications for Haru’s communicative style in detail – if you would like to have access to that, and are not in the main conference, just let me know and I’ll provide an external link

While Haru’s design team sought to “step away from a literal humanoid or animal form” (Gomez et al, 2018), the anthropomorphic elements of the resulting design are clear
Haru beta’s design includes two expressive eyes, animated on TFT displays, with separate LED strips above that act as colored eyebrows
The eyes can be tilted, and each one can move in and out in relation to its casing
Finally, a LED matrix in the robot’s body is used to display a colored mouth of various shapes

While I think this design is clearly anthropomorphic, it’s good to note that Haru’s creators embraced the way this robot’s eyes and neck had the potential also to express with movements similar to a person’s hands, arms and shoulders (Gomez et al, 2018), opening up broader possibilities for Haru’s expression to be both like that of a human, and also fundamentally different although still easily read by humans as communicative.

Caudwell and Lacey suggest (2019, p. 10), it may be important for social robots to “maintain a sense of alterity or otherness, creating the impression that there is more going on than what the user may know”
And this idea may be particularly useful for sustaining long term interactions between humans and robots, where the robot retains a level of mystery that may help it to hold people’s attention, and retain their interest in continued interactions over time

Although Haru does look “cute”, framing this robot with the Japanese word “kawaii” instead
draws attention to Haru’s potential for playfulness, “inquisitive attitude” and the ability to surprise people, catching them “off guard” (Cheok & Fernando, 2011)

Haru’s communication is being developed further with a voice interface
And Haru can also produce nonverbal sounds
Haru is therefore able to communicate across a triple structure (language, paralanguage and kinesics)
Extending the sense of Haru’s otherness, this robot can also express emotion through colored lights and has the ability to project content onto a wall or screen

There are two streams in Haru’s development

The first of these positions Haru as a new form of hybrid telepresence platform
This capitalizes on Haru’s potential as a novel interface that can add a level of expressiveness when someone at a distance is communicating through the robot using either text or voice
Clearly this is most important when the person communicating cannot provide a video feed; however, even when a video feed is supported, it can be argued that the addition of a means to support gestural and body language could enrich telepresence, in particular when the telepresence user is trying to communicate with a group of people (Stahl et al, 2018).
Using Haru for telepresence also opens up the potential not to share video at all, with early research identifying the way that this may reduce the sense (and stress around) surveilling a distant space and person (for both teleoperator and remote participant) addressing some privacy concerns (Niemelä et al, 2019)

Social agent
Working to extend Haru’s control of its own communication (in part developed through working with Haru for telepresence) the second research stream is concerned with building Haru’s ability to develop and express its own personality as a social agent
The aim is to make Haru seem somewhat “alive” to people during an interaction
Not only to support Haru’s ability to communicate, but also to build relationships with people over time, as the robot interacts and collaborates with them in shared activities.

Research with Haru is planned across a number of contexts for interactions with people, including the potential to position Haru:
as a receptionist for an organization
as an information provider in public spaces,
And as a personal assistant, educator or companion in the home
Haru might also be integrated to assist with managing systems and devices in a surrounding smart environment

[SLIDE 10] [2] Long term HRI research – challenges and opportunities
My involvement with Haru started after the initial design and development
Now I’m considering how my specific kind of research can add value to the project
Thinking in particular about how research with Haru over the long term (or longer term than most experimental scenarios) can happen

An initial look for long term HRI research shows that there is relatively little of this
de Graaf et al (2018) notes that
“few studies have investigated the long-term use of technological systems in home environments; thus, the traditional technology acceptance literature lacks a profound body of long-term research”
Such research is valuable though, since, as de Graaf et al go on to note, “the development of user experiences with a technology or gaining user skills might change the user’s attitudes toward, uses of, or even the user’s conceptualizations of that technology”
From my perspective, long term interaction was also part of the stated goal for Haru

[SLIDE 11]
One of the reasons for the lack of long-term research is likely that
“robot technologies are generally not robust enough to be studied outside the lab for extended periods of time without supervision of an expert” (de Graaf et al, 2017)
Haru is no exception to this (research platform not commercial, restricts how research can be run, both in terms of access and robustness)

[SLIDE 12]
Challenges for design in relation to long-term interaction are most often framed in terms of
The need “to create robots that are enjoyable and easy to use to capture users in the short-term, and functionally-relevant to keep those users in the long-term” (de Graaf et al, 2017)
Such that users remain interested after the initial excitement abates (Kertész & Turunen 2017)

[SLIDE 13]
There are a few ways designs are expected to fulfil these challenges
Goodrich et al (2018) Using “deliberative and adaptive narratives” to enrich repeated interactions over time

Robinson et al (2019)
Identifying potential of using:
Badges, Challenges, Feedback, Levels, Progress, Rewards, Points
But also Social Interaction, Story/Theme related to narrative

Co-development and positioning of robot as “inorganic lifeform”
Dereshev et al (2019) highlight “co-development”, mutual learning and development, alongside ideas of taking physical and emotional care of a robot
Their work “suggests a flexible approach to social robots, where it should be highlighted that what users buy into is an “inorganic lifeform”, rather than a utilitarian or hedonic product”
Takes robots beyond function and entertainment…

[SLIDE 14] [3] My plans for qualitative research that asks open questions
Much of my research to date has involved analyzing robots from a distance, via critical textual analyses of videos and texts (both popular cultural and scholarly) concerning robots
Now I’ve got access to Haru, I need to find new methodologies and methods for research directly with a robot of my own

Given that Haru is new to me, as well as the situation with COVID 19, which makes involving other people in research quite difficult at the moment, I’m planning on taking an autoethnographic approach, at least to begin with

Autoethnography is not often used as a methodology for HRI or social robotics research more generally (Chun, 2019), with some exceptions

For example, Verne (2020) emphasizes using “Autoethnography as the methodology gave rich access to events and personal experiences that are important but does not occur very often. Personal thoughts and reflections were important for understanding how I changed my goals and values while adapting to the robot.”

Verne (2020) notes the dilemma over the relation between “first order participation” and “second order reflections on a more abstract and analytical level”
This is also difficult for me, I’m not a natural diary writer
So, I’m going to try out a simplified form of Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) to prompt me to keep in the moment notes about my response to Haru on a regular basis

[SLIDE 15]
Thick description
Experiment with writing about my own experiences with Haru, developing thick descriptions of what it is like to interact with and through Haru

James et al (2019) use the technique to research telepresence on the basis of Ponteretto (2006): “Thick description captures the thoughts and feelings of participants as well as the often complex web of relationships among them.”

James et al suggest that “such findings cannot be extrapolated to larger populations” although “they can inform future research in terms of survey questionnaire and interview schedule design”
Drawing attention to the difficulties of embedding qualitative research (unscientific) into an area where quantitative (scientific) research is more widely accepted

But I’m encouraged by positive reviews of work such as “Seeing like a Rover” by Janet Vertesi (2015), where thick description is used to convey the responses of mission scientists to mars rovers highlighting the value of this type of observation and recording in its own right

The fact that Vertesi talked about this project at the 2019 International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction indicating current interest in this type of research in the community reinforces the idea that this type of work is becoming more widely accepted (I hope)

[SLIDE 16] Questions and contact information
Twitter: @elsand
Email: e.sandry@curtin.edu.au

Caudwell, Catherine, and Cherie Lacey. 2019. “What Do Home Robots Want? The Ambivalent Power of Cuteness in Robotic Relationships.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 135485651983779.

Cheok, Adrian David, and Owen Noel Newton Fernando. 2012. “Kawaii/Cute Interactive Media.” Universal Access in the Information Society 11(3):295–309.

Chun, Bohkyung. 2019. “Doing Autoethnography of Social Robots: Ethnographic Reflexivity in HRI.” Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics 10(1):228–36.

Dereshev, Dmitry, David Kirk, Kohei Matsumura, and Toshiyuki Maeda. 2019. “Long-Term Value of Social Robots through the Eyes of Expert Users.” Pp. 1–12 in Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI ’19. Glasgow, Scotland Uk: ACM Press.

de Graaf, Maartje, Somaya Ben Allouch, and Jan van Dijk. 2017. “Why Do They Refuse to Use My Robot?: Reasons for Non-Use Derived from a Long-Term Home Study.” Pp. 224–33 in. ACM Press.

de Graaf, Maartje MA, Somaya Ben Allouch, and Jan AGM van Dijk. 2018. “A Phased Framework for Long-Term User Acceptance of Interactive Technology in Domestic Environments.” New Media & Society 20(7):2582–2603.

Gomez, R., Galindo, K., Szapiro D., & Nakamura, K. (2018). “Haru”: Hardware design of an experimental tabletop robot assistant. Session We-2A: Designing Robot and Interactions, HRI’18, Chicago, Il, USA.Goodrich MA, Crandall JW, Oudah M, Mathema N (2018) Using narrative to enable longitudinal human-robot interactions. In: Proceedings of the HRI2018 workshop on longitudinal human–robot teaming, Chicago, IL

James, Melanie, Deborah Wise, and Luk van Langenhove. 2019. “Virtual Strategic Positioning to Create Social Presence: Reporting on the Use of a Telepresence Robot.” Papers on Social Representations 28(1).

Kertész, Csaba, and Markku Turunen. 2017. “What Can We Learn from the Long-Term Users of a Social Robot?” Pp. 657–65 in Social Robotics. Vol. 10652, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, edited by A. Kheddar, E. Yoshida, S. S. Ge, K. Suzuki, J.-J. Cabibihan, F. Eyssel, and H. He. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Niemelä, Marketta, Lina van Aerschot, Antti Tammela, Iina Aaltonen, and Hanna Lammi. 2019. “Towards Ethical Guidelines of Using Telepresence Robots in Residential Care.” International Journal of Social Robotics.

Robinson, Nicole L., Selen Turkay, Leonie A. N. Cooper, and Daniel Johnson. 2019. “Social Robots with Gamification Principles to Increase Long-Term User Interaction.” Pp. 359–63 in Proceedings of the 31st Australian Conference on Human-Computer-Interaction. Fremantle WA Australia: ACM.

Vertesi, Janet. 2015. Seeing like a Rover: How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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