Project of the Day: Human-Centered Robotics (year 2018)

Human-Centered Robotics is a one-year project aiming to develop competences of TUT and Pervasive Computing Lab in human-robot interaction, from the perspective of the human. We are building new courses such as “User Experience in Robotics”, collaborating with various TUT labs and other organizations, carrying out field studies with social robots, and generating new scientific insights.

Project team: Aino Ahtinen (project lead), Aleksi Hiltunen, Aparajita Chowdhury, Chathura Yapa, Kirsikka Kaipainen, Nasim Beheshtian, Pepper, Nao siblings.


Robots often participate the lectures and exercises of UX in Robotics course.

We are currently teaching one specific course about human-centered robotics. The course is called UX in Robotics (TIE-41506) and it is taught in TUT campus on the fourth period. It is a multidisciplinary course, which means that students both from technical area (e.g. robotics, automation) as well as from humanistic areas (e.g. human-technology interaction, psychology, sociology) benefit from taking the course. In the course we learn robotics design from the human-centered and psychological perspective. We do hands-on assignments and exercises, experience real robots and visit different sites related to robotics. In addition, we have interesting participatory lectures. The robots have been integrated to other courses as well, such as Psychology of Pervasive Computing and User Experience Design & Evaluation. Robotic related assignments will be also integrated to some programming courses already during this autumn.

Research cases and concepts

Frenckell customer service point. Frenckell, the city of Tampere service point, provides services related to public transport, housing, permits etc. Pepper robot works as a “trainee” during a few days in 2018 at Frenckell, helping out and entertaining customers. Experiential and contextual factors in human-robot interaction in a public, official setting are the focus in this case. Our initial findings suggest that Pepper can evoke stimulation and relatedness experiences among customers. Read more at the Smart Tampere website and check a video. This research case is led by Kirsikka.

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Tammela school robot Elias. We are running a long-term user trial with Elias (Nao) robot in Tammela preliminary school. Elias teaches English and German for the schoolkids. We use multi-method approach on our user study: classroom observations, interviews, diary and questionnaires. So far, the findings are promising. Elias robot has has been warmly welcomed to the school and it has great potentials to motivate kids to learn languages. The study will last until December 2018 and it is led by Aino. Check the video about Elias.

Kids interact very naturally with Elias robot in the classroom.

Robot assisted break exercise. We should all have regular breaks from sitting and standing to maintain our physical well-being and energy. Nao robot has an ability to raise people’s curiosity and persuade them for making some simple movements in between  events and lectures. The concept will be developed further by Aino & Chathura based on the findings from the user studies on field settings, and it is continuation work for the former project around physically active ways of work.

Robot-assisted break exercise concept: Aino & Nao

Mentor robot. This case relates to Aparajita’s masters thesis. We have designed functionalities for Pepper in order to assist the new students with their first day. We have implemented functionalities, e.g. to show direction around the university, find a friend, and advertise activities and events. Furthermore, Pepper can entertain new students by singing and dancing and playing language quiz. We have conducted user interviews to find out the needs and expectations for Pepper. Then, Pepper interacted with the new students in the orientation week. We got valuable feedback of the target audience from interviews, observation and questionnaires. It was very interesting to observe the different reaction from the students.  Most of the people were excited and happy before and after interacting with Pepper. Furthermore, they perceived Pepper as a friend and a guide.

Pepper warmly welcomes new students to Tampere University of Technology in Aparajita’s trial!

Event robot. This Nasim’s thesis research case is mainly about social robots as facilitators of social connections for event participants. The aim of this case is to enhance the social and physical wellbeing of seminar attendees by the use of the social robot Pepper. We attend some events with Pepper and conduct some user studies and contextual inquiries, and finally create a concept based on the result of the study done earlier. Based on the results, we want to design a concept which can help seminar attendees to be able to have a better experience at events and be able to network with other people easier.

Nasim conducting her user research with Pepper in the Conference on work environment research, TUT, September 2018.

Chili – middleware to ease the programming of social robots. Aleksi’s Master’s thesis focuses on making it easier also for non-programmers to instruct Pepper and Nao to do various things. The aim of Chili is to provide a complementary tool for quickly running, testing and modifying different scenarios with a robot.

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