Cross-Cultural Design and Evaluation of Student Companion Robots with Varied Kawaii (Cute) Attributes

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Conference Proceeding

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We report on an extension of a cross-cultural collaborative project between students and faculty at DePauw University in the United States and Shibaura Institute of Technology in Japan. The ongoing project uses cross-cultural teams to design and evaluate virtual companion robots for university students with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the role that kawaii (Japanese cuteness) plays in fostering positive human response to, and acceptance of, robots across cultures. Members of two cross-cultural teams designed virtual companion robots with specific kawaii attributes. Using these robots, we conducted the first phase of a two-phase user study to understand perceptions of these companion robots. The findings demonstrate that participants judge round companion robots to be more kawaii than angular ones and they also judge colorful robots to be more kawaii than greyscale robots. The phase one study identified pairs of robots that are the most appropriate candidates for conducting further investigations. The appropriateness of these pairs holds across male and female participates as well as across participants whose primary culture is American and those whose primary culture is Japanese. This work prepares us to perform a more detailed study across genders and cultures using both survey results and biosensors. In turn, this will inform our long-term goal of designing robots that are appealing across gender and culture.