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When we introduce robots to social spaces in retail, they could potentially fulfil many relevant functions, from restocking shelves in stores to autonomous last-mile delivery. But how can we design robots to successfully navigate and perform in such social spaces? Passers-by, floor workers, and customers; they can all experience and react to such robots in diverse and often unexpected ways. People might be curious and excited about them, might feel supported by robots when they help them to perform particular tasks or might feel anxious when seeing robots move around and act by themselves.

There is such a fascinating and challenging complexity to even something as seemingly mundane as our interactions in the supermarket

Jered Vroon

In this project, we address these challenges by exploring the design of robot behaviors in such a dynamic environment. On the one hand, we explore in which situations through its behavior – and the resulting interaction – the robot may positively or negatively impact the stakeholders (critical scenarios). On the other hand, we will use these critical scenarios to inform enactments of the behavior within its social context. To embrace this embedding in the interaction as a whole, we will build on practices in theatre. More specifically, we will build on methods from devising, an approach to theatre-making that relies on a process of guided ensemble improvisation with strong roots in physical theatre to find settled and meaningful forms of interaction that are put together to form a performance.

Together, this work will help us find interactions that befit the supermarket context. More broadly, we will use this use-case to get a broader insight in the methods necessary to design expressive intelligence.

Interested? Want to know more or connect? You’re welcome to reach out to us, we would love to connect!