Japanese Study Finds Children Harass Mall Robots

Posted on August 15, 2015

Children blocking a mall robot from moving

Japanese researchers have been studying how children react to robots at malls. These robots tend to be child magnets with children frequently running up to them. Some children harassed and abused the robot in the study.

IEEE Spectrum reports on the study by ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories which involved placing a Robovie 2 robot in a mall setting. The robot stops moving when a child steps in front of it. The robot will then politely ask the child to move. If the child does not move the robot eventually moves in another direction. The researchers found the human children would make repeated attempts to block the robot.

The researchers also found some children abused the robot by swearing at it, kicking it, punching it and hitting it with a bottle. IEEE says the researchers did not reveal the exact bad words used by the children although they did say one child called Robovie 2 an "idiot" eight times. These type of behaviors were greater when the children's parents were not around. IEEE says packs of children were also more likely to mess with the robot than an individual child.

Here is a video showing some of the abuse the robot had to endure. In most cases it is just curious kids interacting and playing with the robot. The incidents involving kicking means manufacturers of robots that will be in public places may want to build them robots with child-proofing in mind. The study already resulted in one robot escape maneuver where the robot tries to predict potential abuse and position itself closer to adults. Take a look:



Photo: ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories