Snow white and the seven dwarfs

Robot vacuum cleaner roleplays seven dwarfs in personality test

Image credit: Dreamstime

Oregon State University researchers have used a robot vacuum cleaner equipped with behavioural patterns inspired by the personalities of three characters from Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' to demonstrate that people can guess a robot’s personality from its movement.

Professor Heather Knight and her colleagues programmed a Neato Botvac – a small, slab-like robot vacuum cleaner, similar in form factor to its commercial rival Roomba – with three different patterns of movement.

These three movement patterns were inspired by the personalities of the dwarf characters Happy, Sleepy, and Grumpy, adapted by Disney from the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow White.

“We implemented an expressive autonomous motion generation system that mapped each personality to the robot's motion features - such as path shape, acceleration and velocity characteristics - and whether they moved toward or away from the participant,” said Knight.

“The Happy robot sought people out with smooth motions at moderate speed. The Sleepy robot also sought people out, but with delays and slower accelerations. The Grumpy robot avoided people while using erratic motions and a range of velocities.

“These simple variations told the people a lot.”

A group of study participants rated the robotic motions on politeness, friendliness and intelligence, following a series of trials to illustrate their personalities. They were not told of the robot’s intended personalities.

The participants rated Grumpy as the least polite and least friendly, with Happy rated as the friendliest and smartest. Both Happy and Sleepy were considered most polite, with a rating just above “neutral”.

The findings are noteworthy, the researchers say, because they indicate that the perceived personality traits of a robot influence engagement and trust, just like human personality traits. For instance, an autonomous system for providing advice which is programmed to behave more intelligently may make human customers feel more reassured during interactions.

“Participants were able to distinguish the motion-based personas, which bodes well for the integration of robot personality into simple robots,” said Knight.

“In future, we hope to extend this work to the other four dwarfs and study how personality could positively impact the specific tasks a robot is taking on around people.”

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