ruud_hortensius Researcher_In_Social_and_Affective_Neuroscience

A popularity contest in the robotic petting zoo

In this interactive public art performance, a small group of iRobot Rooma vacuuming cleaning robots compete in a popularity contest. All of the robots have unique characters specifically developed for this project in collaboration with local community actors. Just like in human life these robots have distinct characters. Some of them are cheerful, others grumpy and another will apologize constantly when bumping into obstacles.

Visitors of the petting zoo can interact with these robots. By feeding their favourite robot with our special robot food, they let us know which one of our petting zoo inhabitants they like best. During the day, the bins of the robots are emptied out in a display, demonstrating which robot has been fed the most, thus is the most popular, and which robot has collected the least food and is the least popular. By feeding the robots, following their lives and personalities, and rooting for them to win the contest, visitors can interact with the petting zoo robots and shape who wins the popularity contest, and thus reveal more about the social relationships humans might forge with artificial agents. 

This project is a collaboration between Merel Bekking, a designer and artist, and Emily Cross and me from the University of Glasgow’s Social Brain in Action lab. During her artist-in-residency in the SoBA lab, Merel worked together with us, programmer Bishakha Chaudhury, and other members of the Social Robots project to create the robotic petting zoo. Visit the website for more information. 

This project has been made possible by the financial support of ESRC Impact Acceleration Award Creative-Practitioner in Residence programme and the School of Psychology, Glasgow.

Gyda chefnogaeth Cyfrif Cyflymu Effaith yr ESRC Prifysgol Bangor. 

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Last update: September 12 2018 (publications)


*A popularity contest in the robotic petting zoo will be part of the British Science Festival on September 14! Together with artist-in-residency Merel Bekking, we created an interactive public art performance. In this robotic petting zoo, a small group of vacuuming robots, all with unique characters, competed in a popularity contest. So much fun! Please check this page, the website or this BBC piece for more information.

*Our review paper on the attribution of socialness to artificial agents has been published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences as part of the Year in Cognitive Neuroscience issue. In this review we discuss how the cognitive reconstruction within the human observer shapes human-robot interaction at the brain and behavioural level. Read the the article here.

*A review on the perception of emotion in artificial agents is in press in IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems. In the review we integrate recent findings from social robotics, virtual reality, psychology, and neuroscience to examine how people recognize and respond to emotions displayed by robotic and virtual agents, and provide guiding principles for future development and research. Read the PsychArXiv pre-print here, the accepted version here or see the poster for the CERE conference here.

*Why do we fail to help during an emergency in the presence of other people? Together, with Beatrice de Gelder I propose a new theoretical perspective on bystander apathy that integrates emotional, motivational and dispositional aspects. Out now in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

---Coming soon---

*A preprint entitled: “Socialising with a robot and the flexibility of empathy”.