Should Robots Blush?

Park, Soomi; Healey, Patrick G. T. and Kaniadakis, Antonios. 2021. 'Should Robots Blush?'. In: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21). Yokohama, Japan 8 - 13 May 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Social interaction is the most complex challenge in daily life. Inevitably, social robots will encounter interactions that are outside their competence. This raises a basic design question: how can robots fail gracefully in social interaction? The characteristic human response to social failure is embarrassment. Usefully, embarrassment signals both recognition of a problem and typically enlists sympathy and assistance to resolve it. This could enhance robot acceptability and provides an opportunity for interactive learning. Using a speculative design approach we explore how, when and why robots might communicate embarrassment. A series of specially developed cultural probes, scenario development and low-fidelity prototyping exercises suggest that: embarrassment is relevant for managing a diverse range of social scenarios, impacts on both humanoid and non-humanoid robot design, and highlights the critical importance of understanding interactional context. We conclude that embarrassment is fundamental to competent social functioning and provides a potentially fertile area for interaction design.

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Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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This work was funded and supported by EPSRC and AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Media and Arts Technology (grant number: EP/L01632X/1) of Queen Mary, University of London and Designers in Residence program of the Design Museum, London.


Human-Robot Interactions, Afective Robotics, Symbolic Interactionism, Embarrassment, Speculative Design, Cultural Probes, Design Workshop

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6 May 2021Published
12 December 2020Accepted

Event Location:

Yokohama, Japan

Date range:

8 - 13 May 2021

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Date Deposited:

03 Sep 2021 09:10

Last Modified:

07 Feb 2022 14:27


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