Robot Size Matters

Size. With robots, does size matter? One might say size matters little if it works well and performs the job it was designed to do. From an engineering perspective one might even add ‘the smaller the better’ or ‘the cheaper the better’. But from a psychological perspective it may be very important how big a robot is. In the social interaction with humans a big robot may function differently than a small one. Big impresses, big attracts attention, big frightens. Small endears, small puts at ease. Those are just some associations that we should think about studying closer.

An interesting ongoing experiment with size is the work of Hajime Sakamoto and his Hajime Research Institute (a Japanese company building humanoid robots). He plans to build larger and larger robots that can walk on two feet, eventually ending up with a ´Gundam´ robot that can seat a human (co)pilot, as featured in the famous SF-cartoons (of which Hajime is a fan). A fairly recent prototype can be seen in the following movie:

Recent progress reported here by PlasticPals.

Another nice example of the effect of a big robot size is the fake robot Titan, see the movie below. He attracts a lot of attention, and scares people a little, but also puts them at ease quickly by using humour.

The very small robots, like Keepon, are perhaps relying partly on their smallness to endear people and to easily establish contact with people. An interesting thought experiment is to imagine a really big Keepon, say 1.50m, trying to interact with a five year old autistic boy. Do you think it will be just as succesful as the small one? I do not think so. Or imagine a 2m Paro robot ‘baby’ seal. Hmmm, that might actually have an effect similar to that of those giant teddy bears you can win at fairs. Holding them in your

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lap would be difficult though.

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