Social Sensing for Human-Robot Interaction

Project Members

Scott E. Hudson  (Carnegie Mellon University, Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Marynel Vázquez (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Aaron Steinfeld (Carnegie Mellon University)
Matt Glisson (Disney Research Pittsburgh)



We explore the idea of a sidekick from a human-robot interaction perspective. A sidekick is closely associated with another, primary character, and regarded as a subordinate or partner. Sidekicks are popular in various forms of narrative, where they are often used as comic relief or to introduce an accessible character to increase audience engagement. Likewise, sidekicks can act as a vehicle for raising an obvious concern to the primary character from the audience. For example, a sidekick may yell, “Look out!” to the hero when a villain appears on screen.

We developed a platform for exploring entertainment engagement in general from a human-robot interaction perspective. This robot is Chester, a child-sized robot in the form of a small, but mobile, piece of furniture. Although Chester is intended to be friendly and inviting, we worried that some children would be uncomfortable with its physical appearance. Chester is big with respect to young children, has pronounced corners, and moves rigidly. Thus, we decided to explore how the beneficial aspects of a sidekick might mitigate apprehension and fear.

Robots provide a novel opportunity for sidekicks since it is possible, and reasonable, for the sidekick to be co-located with the primary character – this would be unusual for a human sidekick. Hence, we added an interactive lamp, named Blink, on top of Chester to examine this interaction. This lamp performs the functions of a sidekick, being smaller in size and dependent on Chester for mobility. Blink is smarter and speaks its own language which, much like R2-D2 in Star Wars, only Chester understands.

We conducted an exploratory study with our characters, and predicted that the addition of Blink would lead children to be more engaged in the interaction and treat Chester in a more sociable manner. Besides showing the effects of a sidekick, we also characterize the behavior of children that interacted with our characters. Our work confirms that furniture robots are a plausible design for children.



Spatial and Other Social Engagement Cues in a Child-Robot Interaction- Effects of a Sidekick-Thumbnail

Spatial and Other Social Engagement Cues in a Child-Robot Interaction: Effects of a Sidekick
March 3, 2014
Human Robot Interaction (HRI) 2014
Paper File [pdf, 3.27 MB]

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