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Social Engagement with Robots and Agents

Project Number: 231868
Project Manager CTIT: Dr. Dirk Heylen
Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS)
Tel.: +31-53-4893745
Email: d.k.j.heylen@utwente.nl


Getting people to engage with robotic and virtual artifacts is easy, but keeping them engaged over time is hard: robots and agents lack some fundamental capabilities which can be summarized as sociability. Sociability involves perceptiveness of and responsiveness to individuals' and groups' needs, moods, habits, situations, cultural background, social norms and conventions. The research community has realized the problem, but approaches, so far, have been dispersed and disjoint. If robots and agents are to become companions in people’s lives, with assistive, coaching, monitoring, or educational roles, they will have to blend into these lives seamlessly.

SERA is innovative in that it addresses sociability holistically, by advancing knowledge about what sociability in robots and agents entails, by developing methodology to analyze and evaluate it, and by making available research resoures and platforms. SERA will, to this purpose, undertake reallife extended field studies of users’ engagement with robotic devices.

Sociablity has also to be built into robot and agent architectures from scratch. The goal here is to research and to implement an architecture that caters for both background (cultural, normative etc.) and situational individual (theory of mind, adaptivity, responsiveness) practices and needs of users, with the guiding principle of pervasive affectivity. Assistive robots and agents who are to become true companions, e.g. for elderly or homebound people, have to be versatile in functionality and identity (style, personality) depending on the service they are required to deliver, such as (reactive) social mediators, as (in turn reactive and proactive) information assistants, or as (proactive) coaches or monitors e.g. with health-related tasks. SERA will develop pilots of such intertwined interactive service applications for a robotic device.

Project duration: 2 years / 2009-2011
Project budget: 1.5 M-€ / 1.174 k-€ funding
Number of person/years: 142 person/months / 5.9 fte/year
Project Coordinator: Österreichische Studiengesellschaft für Kypbernetik
Participants: Österreichische Studiengesellschaft für Kypbernetik, University of Sheffield, UT, University Duisburg-Essen
Project budget CTIT: 414.7 k-€ / 318 k-€ funding
Number of person/years CTIT: 33 person/months – 1.375 fte/year
Involved groups: Human Media Interaction (HMI)