Playful touch serves an important role in human development and interpersonal bonding. Accordingly, we believe future robots may need lighthearted touch capabilities in order to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human-robot hand-to-and interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a one-hour-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, stiffness, and tempo.
Qualitative data collected from surveys and exper- iment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment, all users enjoyed at least one game, and nineteen of the 20 users identified at least one potential personal use for Baxter. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Through subjective experience data collected after each game variation, we found that perceptions of Baxter vary in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increases the robot’s perceived pleasantness and arousal; physical reactivity decreases safety, pleasantness, arousal, and dominance; higher stiffness increases safety and decreases dominance; and faster tempo decreases safety, increases arousal, and increases dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social-physical human-robot interactions.