Can people form emotional connections with robots? Come and find out for yourself at the University of Canterbury Human Interface Technology Lab’s (HITLab) showcase at the Big Science Day, this Saturday.

‘Humanoids’ Kant, Aristotle and Socrates will dish out hugs, dance Gangnam Style and even sing Happy Birthday as part of demonstrations by UC Masters’ students at the event in Cathedral Square, from 10am – 4pm.

Human Interface Technology Master’s degree student Helen Figg says the event is an exciting chance to test what the group has learned in the real world.

“We’ve been working towards this event as part of our investigation into how people interact with robots. As well as children wanting to experience an emotional connection, we have found they want to understand the robots’ personalities. The interactions we will demonstrate reflect this.”

Kant, Aristotle and Socrates are programmed with different personalities. Their actions are directed through computer software. Students have coded instructions for dancing, hugging, singing, walking around obstacles, performing knock-knock jokes, arm wrestling and answering general knowledge questions for this project.

The student group, made up of Helen Figg, Omprakash Rudhru, Qi Min Ser, Sakthi Priya Balaji Ranganathan and Sathya Kumar Barathan, have completed two test demonstrations in preparation for Saturday’s event. They first took the robots to meet children from Cubs (part of Scouts), before refining their interactions and conducting further testing with Burnside Primary School students.

“The most popular interactions so far with the children have been the dancing and the knock-knock jokes. It’s about that one-to-one interaction,” Figg says.

UC’s Colleges of Engineering and Science will also have a rocket, a drone, an electric go-kart and the Formula SAE race car on show at the Big Science Day. An interactive chemistry show will take place on the main stage, in association with UC students from ChemSoc.


For further information contact:

Margaret Agnew, UC Senior External Relations Advisor
p 027 503 0168 or (03) 364 2775