This paper, which reports a qualitative study on a social robot in a local shopping mall in Japan, explores how visitors interacted, understood, and accepted it. In the shopping mall where we conducted our study, Robovie, a humanoid robot, has been tested for 3 years. Based on this context of long-term exposure to a social robot, we conducted short-term interviews and observations with the visitors to the mall. We analyzed the obtained qualitative data by a grounded-theory approach and identified four common trends: (1) association of the robot with its location; (2) assigning of future roles to the robot; (3) perceiving it as a form of entertainment for children, i.e., as a mascot; and (4) perception of autonomy is independent of how the robot works. One might expect people to automatically see the robot as a utility, but instead they tended to consider it a suitable mascot.
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Introducing this specific question was the result of a combination of factors: (a) some interviewees suggested it in a few preliminary interviews; (b) we considered the cultural fact that in Japan shopping malls, companies, and prefectures create their own mascots; (c) the need to understand whether Robovie was perceived as an information interface or rather more like a friendly character. In the end “mascot” seemed a more descriptive reference than “character”. Since mall visitors are generally looking to buy, our interviews had to be short. Thus, we thought it reasonable to ask a variety of quick questions aimed at understanding how visitors imagined Robovie. With this question, we later verified whether the idea of Robovie in effect matched that of mascots in Japan.
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We thank Dr. Koizumi, Mr. Hato, and Ms. Taniguchi for their help. This research was supported by JST CREST.
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Sabelli, A.M., Kanda, T. Robovie as a Mascot: A Qualitative Study for Long-Term Presence of Robots in a Shopping Mall. Int J of Soc Robotics 8, 211–221 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-015-0332-9
- Communication robots
- Social robots
- Robots in public place
- Qualitative study