Experiences with Sparky, a Social Robot

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In an effort to explore human response to a socially competent embodied agent, we have a built a life-like teleoperated robot. Our robot uses motion, gesture and sound to be social with people in its immediate vicinity. We explored human-robot interaction in both private and public settings. Our users enjoyed interacting with Sparky and treated it as a living thing. Children showed more engagement than adults, though both groups touched, mimicked and spoke to the robot and often wondered openly a bout its intentions and capabilities. Evidence from our experiences with a teleoperated robot showed a need for next-generation autonomous social robots to develop more sophisticated sensory modalities that are better able to pay attention to people.