In good company? : Perception of movement synchrony of a non-anthropomorphic robot
Recent technological developments like cheap sensors and the decreasing costs of computational power have brought the possibility of robotic home companions within reach. In order to be accepted it is vital for these robots to be able to participate meaningfully in social interactions with their users and to make them feel comfortable during these interactions. In this study we investigated how people respond to a situation where a companion robot is watching its user. Specifically, we tested the effect of robotic behaviours that are synchronised with the actions of a human. We evaluated the effects of these behaviours on the robot’s likeability and perceived intelligence using an online video survey. The robot used was Care-O-bot®3, a non-anthropomorphic robot with a limited range of expressive motions. We found that even minimal, positively synchronised movements during an object-oriented task were interpreted by participants as engagement and created a positive disposition towards the robot. However, even negatively synchronised movements of the robot led to more positive perceptions of the robot, as compared to a robot that does not move at all. The results emphasise a) the powerful role that robot movements in general can have on participants’ perception of the robot, and b) that synchronisation of body movements can be a powerful means to enhance the positive attitude towards a non-anthropomorphic robot.