Design and Cross-cultural Evaluation of a Kawaii (Cute) Roomba Vacuum

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



As robots become increasingly common in daily life, it is critical that roboticists design devices that are accepted broadly, including across cultures and genders. This paper reports on a project that seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the role that kawaii (Japanese cuteness) plays in fostering positive human response to, and acceptance of, robotic gadgets across cultures. Specifically, we report on the design of a Roomba-style vacuum that has been modified to be kawaii in several ways as follows: (a) dressed in a cute animal-like costume, (b) uses cute colors, (c) makes a cute sound when it hits an obstacle, (d) shakes its body when it hits an obstacle, and (e) spins its eyes when it hits an obstacle. After reporting on our design, this paper also reports on a pilot user study to investigate and compare the perceptions of cuteness and acceptance of the Plain Roomba as compared to Mango. The study participants viewed photographs and videos of the Plain Roomba and the kawaii Roomba and answered qualitative and quantitative survey questions regarding the two designs. We report on the cute attributes identified by study participants. We also compare results for American, Japanese, and Vietnamese college students. This comparison suggests a tendency for the Japanese participants to make different judgements about kawaii-ness as compared to the other groups.