The KASPAR humanoid robot, developed at the University of Hertfordshire has previously been used in studies of human-robot interaction with normal and autistic children. We reported in 2007 on KASPAR being used to teach social skills to autistic children. According to a recently released paper, KASPAR is now being used by researchers interested in finding out if children interviewed by a humanoid robot respond in the same way as to human interviewers. In particular, they wanted to find out if children would be more or less willing to disclose information to robots. The results surprised the researchers, who had expected to see some preference in the children for either robots or humans. From the paper:
The results were contrary to our expectations. Rather than having a clear preference, the children behaved very similarly towards either of the interviewers (human/robot). The children used similar amounts of words, keywords and filler words when responding to both the robot and the human interviewer. There was also very little difference in the amount of words the children used relative to the amount of words the interviewer used. These findings illustrate that the children communicated with the robot in a similar way to which they did the human interviewer.
They did find one interesting difference. Their measure of the children’s eye gaze reveals they spent much more time looking at the robot’s face during interviews than they did with human interviewers. For all the details, read the paper by Luke Jai Wood, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Austen Rainer, Ben Robins, Hagen Lehmann, and Dag Sverre Syrdal, titled Robot-Mediated Interviews – How Effective Is a Humanoid Robot as a Tool for Interviewing Young Children?.