- Keywords: Robot Behavioral Anthropomorphism, Robots in Virtual Reality, Robot Materiality, Social Robotics
- Abstract: Virtual reality (VR) and social robotics have mutual benefits. VR offers an instrumented and manipulable environment in which robots and people can virtually interact as well as tools for visual manipulations of robot materiality and color. VR also has a wealth of knowledge about how multimodal communications like motion, proxemics, and touch can inform interaction. Submersing social robots in VR provides an opportunity for physically-grounded interaction that leverages behavioral anthropomorphism. This work attempts to intersect these previously disparate areas, eliciting participant storytelling about the simplest possible anthropomorphizable robot: a robot that approaches and then bumps into you. In the study, 16 participants experience twelve manifestations of virtual/physical robots that approach and collide into them. The moment of collision provides an opportunity for expressive interpretation that offers a first glimpse into future potentials for physically embodied companion characters in virtual reality.
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- Broader Impacts: Researchers are gaining insights into how simple robots forms can communicate via motion, light, and sound. These developing understandings of simple robot communicative capabilities have been shown to enable people to anticipate and understand current robot operation state, and can help cue desired behavior from the human, but there is much left to learn. For example, diverse exploration of the impact of visual form would require the building of many robots, which limits the work to date. To address this gap, the opportunity explored in this paper is ways in which explorations of robot form and material VR might bootstrap the development of new understandings in this area. This paper suggests several rich potentials for leveraging robot anthropomorphism in virtual reality. Adapting insights from social robotics into the VR setting, it suggests that there is a utility to exploring variants of robot appearance and physicality because of the low barriers to entry and the many software assets that already exist for free. Such future implementations/experiments, may offer further capability to do VR prototypes for social robots in the real world, and/or as a novel entertainment options to deepen character-based interactions in mixed-reality.