User Experience of Care-O-bot 4 Tested in Practice

“What’s the Effect of Care-O-bot 4 on the Selling Floor? Evaluating the User Experience of a Service Robot” is the title of a research paper by Carolin Schmitt she wrote while with Phoenix Design. In her paper, the Interaction Designer investigates how visitors to the electronics store Saturn in Ingolstadt reacted to the Fraunhofer IPA Care-O-bot 4 designed by Phoenix Design.

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  • 1 - Test Scenario

    1 - Test Scenario

    Paul is standing at his station near the entrance of the electronics store. His sensors make him detect that somebody approaches his area of interaction. He greets the newcomer, introduces himself and asks whether he could help find a product. The customer tells Paul which product he/she is interested in. The customer has the choice between navigating to the section of the store where the requested product is presented on the shelves, or displaying the search result. When in product display mode, Paul will tilt his head and torso, turning the display into a horizontal position. The customer can start navigating to a specific product only from the search result list. Otherwise, Paul will lead the customer to the respective product section of the store. Once there, there’s also the option to have Paul call an employee. When the employee arrives, he/she will identify themselves to Paul via a QR code. If no employee help is needed, Paul would like four questions answered before saying good-bye – one of the questions is: “Do we want to be friends on Facebook?”. The dance sequence may start at random. Then his eyes take on this dancing look, he plays music, and both the LED ring as well as the LEDs on the hub caps will light up in lively colours. (Photo: Phoenix Design)

  • 2 - Care-O-bot 4 Paul’s effect on children at the Saturn store

    2 - Care-O-bot 4 Paul’s effect on children at the Saturn store

    Kids are not tall enough to see Paul’s display. When children were carried on their parents' arms, it could be observed that they touched the display or the eyes. (Photo: Phoenix Design)

  • 3 – Paul’s eyes as points of contact

    3 – Paul’s eyes as points of contact

    Of course, Paul's animated eyes are truly “eye-catchers”; they can look differently depending on the mood. They also act as focus point while communicating with the service robot. (Photo: Phoenix Design)

Interaction with robots is still a novelty to most people, and thus constitutes a special form of interaction. That’s why, in cooperation with Fraunhofer IPA and Saturn, Phoenix Design designed Paul's character. In doing so, the aim was to lend him a personality, making him more accessible for the people in the electronics store. That's why Paul not only has a name, but also a personal history and certain preferences.

In a pilot project, the service robot welcomes his customers as an additional shopping aide, helping them find products, among other things. During the examination, Paul’s service performance was divided into 10 scenarios, from greeting at the entrance all the way to saying good-bye after having helped the customers find their products.

For her research paper, Interaction Designer Carolin Schmitt analysed the effect of Care-O-bot 4 on the selling floor. Among other things, the interaction of children with Care-O-bot 4 was examined. Both sales staff and customers had surmised that children would be trilled by Paul. In fact, the children’s reactions to the service robot were somewhat more intense. They showed more patience with him and scrutinised him in great detail. Especially the coloured LEDs attracted the attention of all children. In particular, the back-lit hub caps were touched a lot. In addition, all children wanted to push the red emergency-off button – not least since it is positioned at a height kids can easily reach. As long as Paul didn’t move, the children had no fear of contact and extensively examined Paul’s basis and torso.

In terms of the design of the service robot, Paul's eyes are one of the most important elements for the perceived User Experience (just like in inter-human interaction). Paul’s eyes were predominantly perceived as positive. For some people, they were the design feature which made Paul appear to them as “cute” or “cuddly”. His blinking was liked as well and was interpreted as a sign of “being alive” – in the sense of accessibility and activity.

Of course, movement, language, functionality, and character play a role as well, influencing how Paul is being perceived. Further results of this qualitative examination about the attitude and perception of people regarding this service robot and its effect will be presented by Carolin Schmitt and Johannes Schäfer at the conference MENSCH UND COMPUTER 2017 [Humans and Computers] taking place on 10–13 September 2017 in Regensburg.