Field testing is something that really matters to us at Hease. How do people behave with the robot, from the moment they notice it to the moment their interaction is over? Along the way, when is the interaction really meaningful? When, and why, is it less relevant? How can we improve the whole experience offered to people and make it even more memorable? From the beginning, Hease has always advocated for an usage-driven approach of robotics.
We learn a lot performing those tests with our clients and their users. We learn, we adapt, and then we test again and look what happens. It’s an ongoing and essential process during an experimentation period – what we call P.O.C phases.
At the moment, we are working on a feature to prevent our robot Heasy from staring at walls when it operates in small walled areas, as it is not really engaging for people passing by. We’re experimenting different ways to address this challenge.
A few days ago, during a test, the robot decided to look at the wall and turned its back to people. In fact it wasn’t completely facing the wall but rather standing crosswise. I was 3 meters away, sitting on a bench observing its behavior. Between me and the robot, there was another bench. On this one, there was a father sitting with his kid. The kid was 7-ish, and from the moment they sat, the robot had all his attention. When it started looking at the wall, the kid leaned toward his dad and said “Look dad, he is watching the game on TV!” and he laughed.
To be honest, I didn’t even notice the TV on the wall before the kid mentioned it. But this innocuous comment actually changed the way I would describe this experience later on. Basically, I’d probably say about it “We tested something with Heasy but it didn’t work today”, but there was also another version of this story, where the kid would say “I saw a robot today, and when no one could see him, he watched soccer on TV!”.
What we can learn from that is how strong the brain is hard-wired to find meaning in what happens around us.. Human experiences is all about making sense of information, and finding motivations behind events. Our brain is ready to give mind to almost anything. In fact, it seems to be ready to give mind to almost anything that is able to move. Here we have a little magic example, but as a company we work hard to make sure that the gap between how we want the robot to behave and how his behavior is perceived stays as small as possible and always results in a positive experience
(And if you like the idea of our brain finding motivations, you should definitely read about Heider and Simmel experiment)