Learning to love your robot

December 22nd, 2009

The new Scientist has an article, Learning to love to hate robots, on recent research on how humans and robots interact and ways to improve the relationships. The most popular robot in such “opposite relationships” is, of course, the little Roomba. Searching for roomba on Flickr produces more than 5000 pictures taken by their human friends.

“A six-month study of how Roomba affected households, conducted by Ja-Young Sung at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, backs up that finding. “Some people saw it as a lifetime partner – they had a real emotional attachment to it.” Even those who returned to their previous cleaning routine didn’t blame the robot, instead saying it was their routine that was at fault.”

See their 2009 CHI paper, “Pimp My Roomba”: Designing for Personalization.

The little guy is pretty savvy — it knows how how to get ahead even if it doesn’t have the fastest cores on the block: manage expectations.

“One study by Jodi Forlizzi at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, highlights how popular culture can affect a robot’s reception. People she introduced to Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner made by iRobot of Bedford, Massachusetts, compared it with their knowledge of robots that explore Mars, forming low expectations of Roomba’s abilities. But making a bad first impression seemed to help Roomba; it invariably surpassed expectations, helping people bond with their machine.”

See How Robotic Products Become Social Products: An Ethnographic Study of Cleaning in the Home.