Robotic companions are expected to play both a functional and a social role in human environments, such as homes, schools, offices, nursing homes, and cars. There, robots will be designed to respond to events and stimuli around them, in part to fulfill a task, but also to affect a social response in their human counterparts. This research experimentally evaluates the effects that a robot’s response to an event has on a human’s perception of the same event.
We know that humans look to the interpretation of others to form their own perception of events and experiences, a phenomenon called “social referencing”. To what extent does this phenomenon translate to human-robot shared experiences? How does it affect their perception of the robot? Can we design robot responses to third-party experiences so as to affect a particular human response in a desired way? Answering these questions could have consequences on a host of robotic companion areas, from media experiences, through healthcare (imagine making an unpleasant but necessary medical procedure more positively perceived), to work environments, or even just for making standing in traffic less burdensome.