Cross-cultural Design and Evaluation of Robot Prototypes based on Kawaii (Cute) Attributes

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



We report on a cross-cultural collaborative project between students and faculty at DePauw University in the United States and Shibaura Institute of Technology in Japan that used cross-cultural teams to design and evaluate robotic gadgets to gain a deeper understanding of the role that kawaii (Japanese cuteness) plays in fostering positive human response to, and acceptance of, these devices across cultures. Two cross-cultural design teams used Unity and C# to design and implement prototypes of virtual robotic gadgets as well as virtual environments for the robots to interact in. One team designed a virtual train station as well as robotic gadgets to operate in the station. The other team designed a virtual university campus as well as robotic gadgets that operated in that environment. Two versions of each robotic gadget were designed, such that the two versions differed with respect to one kawaii attribute (shape, size, etc.) Using these robots, we conducted a formal study that compared perceptions of kawaii robots between American college students and Japanese college students, as well as across genders. The findings revealed that there was not much difference in perception of kawaii across cultures and genders. Furthermore, the study shows that designing a robot to be more kawaii/cute appears to positively influence human preference for being around the robot. This study will inform our long-term goal of designing robots that are appealing across gender and culture.