Bucci, P., Zhang, L., Cang, X. L., & MacLean, K. E. "Is it Happy? Behavioural and Narrative Frame Complexity Impact Perceptions of a Simple Furry Robot's Emotions." In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (p. 509). ACM.
Critical to social human-robot interaction is a robot’s emotional richness, expressed within the parameters of its physical display. While emotion arousal is straightforward to convey, human valence (positivity) evaluations are famously ambiguous, whether we are assessing other humans or a robot. Imagine someone breathing raggedly: are they nervous, or excited? To assess the premise that irregular breathing connotes low valence (emotion negativity), we implemented different levels of breathing variability and complexity in simple furry robots. We asked 10 participants to watch and feel the behaviors, rate their valence, and explain their impressions. While a quantitative exploration of new and previous data showed correlation between multi-scale entropy and valence, the rich narratives revealed by thematic analysis of participant explanations call into question whether a single motion can, alone, be unambiguously valenced. Based on this evidence that people perceive robots as having inner lives, we recommend ways to build up narrative contexts over multiple interactions.