Designing and Evaluating Social Robots for Public Settings

iROS 2015 conference logo

Chris Bevan, Paul Bremner, Danaë Stanton Fraser and Hatice Gunes organised a full day workshop as part of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2015.

The workshop, Designing and Evaluating Social Robots for Public Settings, included keynotes from Hideaki Kuzuoka (University of Tsukuba, Japan), Astrid Weiss (Vienna University of Technology, Austria) and Laurel Riek (University of Notre Dame, U.S.), and three themed sessions in which eight paper presentations will be given.  The full workshop programme can be viewed here.

Several of the Being There project team attended the workshop and their papers are available to view on the Papers & Media page of this website.

Workshop Overview: Social robotics has become increasingly important in HRI, yet robots are often still designed and evaluated using traditional lab-based experimental methods that derive from the AI roots of robotics as a field. Increasingly however, robotics researchers are considering the value of multi-disciplinary design and evaluation methods, including the mixed-methods lab-based designs used traditionally within the social sciences along with ‘in the wild’ testing through field deployments in public settings. In this workshop, we will explore the challenges to both robotic design and evaluation methods that these hybrid methodologies create, and how these challenges might be harnessed to promote a more ‘human-centred’ approach to HRI.

With increasingly affordable advanced robotics platforms such as the Nao and the RoboThespian now reaching market, we find ourselves standing at the gateway to a new era of socially capable robots operating within the public sphere. In response to new needs and expectations of the public en-masse, once this gateway opens, the capabilities of socially aware semi-autonomous and autonomous robots will likely accelerate sharply. In tandem, public perceptions of robotics must shift from considering robots as largely hidden autonomous machines of factory work towards their being integrated into society as a form of social being in their own right. The true impact of the public’s preconceived notions about robots (e.g. as informed by science fiction) will become increasingly salient, and the gulf between public perception and the reality of robot technology may be much smaller (or indeed much larger) than we anticipate.

How we as robotics developers and researchers mediate this process is a challenge for all of us. As we have seen with other rapidly evolving technologies, we must be mindful that this process has the potential to be highly disruptive. There is therefore an increased urgency for HRI as a multi-disciplinary research field to collaborate effectively to develop and share appropriate tools with which to respond to this new era.