#littlefoot episode 1: Inspiration and Research

Written by

Darshana Tuladhar

It was a sleepy Friday afternoon at work and I was at my desk fighting a severe case of weekenditis* when I got the e-mail notification. “You have a delivery waiting for you in the lobby.” I immediately knew what it was, jumped out of my chair with glee and excitedly shouted, “it’s here!” Jake, my deskmate, looked over and then continued working – he was used to my random outbursts and out of context comments.

What had arrived was a robot dinosaur.

Darshana stands next to a large white robot at SXSW

I was going to be a dinosaur robot mommy! Let me give you some context on what led to this delightful dinosaur delivery. Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to speak and attend SXSW 2016. While in Austin, I visited IBM’s cognitive studio where I was able to witness human-robot interactions with an NAO robot and Pepper the service robot. I was inspired and fascinated by the relationship that a number of us developed with these robots with limited social exchanges. This fascination led me down a path of investigating consumer robots that emphasized human interactions and relationships. I was determined to do more research and understand what facilitates these relationships and connections by having a robot of my own. After weeks of researching robots and narrowing down candidates, I decided to purchase a dinosaur robot known as Pleo RB. The reasons I chose this particular robot are:

  • price
  • it is autonomous
  • goes through developmental stages
  • is interactive
  • is socially engaging
  • it has artificial intelligence that can learn

Being a researcher, I proceeded to find more information by visiting, lurking forums, reading reviews and consumer articles, and watching hours of YouTube videos of people with their pet robot dinosaurs. After a couple of weeks, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a Pleo RB dinosaur for myself.

Now that the robot is here, I intend to carry out my investigation of human interactions. My plan is to regularly bring the robot into the Blink offices and observe how others engage with it. I will document findings in future blog posts, run studies and interview people about their experiences with the robot. Through this endeavor, I hope to uncover:

  • If relationships develop
  • If they do, what types of relationships develop?
  • What is it about this little robot that encourages and fosters relationships with humans?
  • An understanding of the user’s perspectives and experiences with a social, companion robot
  • What to consider when creating a social and/or companion robot in terms of user experience

Stay tuned for findings and updates!

*Weekenditis – Similar to senioritis where one reaches a point where they do not want to work anymore and eagerly anticipate the upcoming weekend.