On a visit to Heather Culbertson’s lab, you might be gently patted on the shoulder by a robot. How would that make you feel? If the answer is “a bit uncomfortable,” you are not alone.
“A lot of people have never been touched by or interacted with a robot, so at first, they’re a bit weirded out by it,” said Culbertson, a USC Viterbi assistant professor of computer science.
After noticing this tendency, Culbertson and her students programmed the robot to kick off the interaction with a friendly high-five. It worked — people loosened up and were more willing to interact with the robot going forward.