This week we caught up with Joseph Daly, a PhD student based at Bristol Robotics Laboratory. Joe has a background in psychology, which initially sounds unrelated to robotics, but is becoming increasingly relevant as robots start to share spaces with human beings. Joe’s interests lie in investigating how robots can interact with humans in a way that is comfortable and intuitive. Most recently, he looked at people’s willingness to help a robot in need depending on its emotional behaviour. Check out what he has to say below.
What area of robotics do you focus on, and why does it appeal to you?
The area of human robot interaction is special in that it can sometimes tell us as much about what it means to be human as it tells us about developing new robotic technologies.
How do you expect emotionally engaging and life-like robots to impact the life quality of humans in future?
I think there is a lot of potential for this kind of robot to play a role similar to a pet in providing companionship and supporting positive mental health for people who, for whatever reason, may be unable to look after a real animal.
What tools were you using to support your research before you used MiRo?
Before using Miro the majority of my research used computer-based studies with people just pressing buttons or answering questionnaires – not very exciting for anyone involved.
What was setup like and how has MiRo helped you to further your research?
Working with Miro has meant that with even limited technical knowledge, I was able to conduct studies where people could directly interact with the robot, rather than just a computer.
What is it that makes MiRo so different and appealing?
Human robot interaction research often focuses on humanoid robots, but Miro offers an opportunity to discover more about the relationship between humans and animal-like robots. Also the fact that it is absolutely adorable is a definite bonus!
What are you expecting to do with MiRo and how will this differ from your past approach?
I plan to continue this line of research, but develop it further and make full use of Miro’s abilities to create even more natural interactions.
How would you describe the technical support?
The technical support is great! I’m indebted to them for their swift solutions to the occasional technical hiccups that I’ve encountered.
What was your favourite robotics discovery and why?
My favourite discovery, and the one that got me interested in robotics, was a study that found that when a robot helped someone, the users were more reluctant to switch it off afterwards. As obvious as it sounds, I find that something so simple could produce such a profound effect on people really powerful.
What advice would you give researchers looking to develop biomimetic software?
Keep the ‘bio’ aspect at the heart of the software and I don’t think you can go far wrong.