Do you trust me? Exploring human-robot trust with primary school pupils at a summer camp of Varalan Urheiluopisto

Warming up exercises led by Nao robot. Image: Richa Singh

It was the beginning of Fall, the first day of September 2023. Three robots accompanied by seven researchers visited a summer camp at Varalan Urheiluopisto to introduce different types of social robots and study the trust from the human-robot interaction.

Supported by the project AI Hub Tampere, we conducted a 2-hour study at a summer camp at Varalan Urheiluopisto which had an amazing opening by introducing ourselves, activities of the day, and most importantly, asking pupils what they think a robot is. The introductory session was interactive, and we received responses from the pupils. For example, when asking what is a robot, some of the pupils commented that: ’Se on sähköinen laite joka tekee jotain. Esimerkiksi: imuroida’ = ’It is an electrical device that does something. For example: hoover’. After warming up and getting to know each other, the pupils were divided into three groups and circulated between three robot stations to learn knowledge related to health and physical activities. The three robot stations included: 

-Furhat robot: finding clue card envelop + medical screener for diabetes 

-Nao robot: Tai-Chi exercise + Health and Wellness Q&A 

-Pepper robot: Tickle me + Tampere quiz  

Pupils interacting with Nao robot.

Accompanied by voluntary parents and/or the responsible teacher, each group of pupils spent 25 minutes interacting with the robot at each station. For instance, they tried out the medical screener for diabetes on Furhat following the instruction given by the persona on the clue card envelop they found, competed in how frequently they can tickle Pepper in a short time, and answered to a set of eight health and wellness related questions asked by Nao. Thanks to our primary study (see the blog post here) conducted in the summer, we facilitated engaging robotic activities with pupils by adding hands-on tasks such as trying out the programming and touch sensors of Nao. We observed that pupils’ interest in Nao is raised when they’re typing sentences to be spoken by Nao and adjusting the volume and the posture of Nao with its touch sensors. These spontaneous tasks were amusing to pupils till the point they didn’t want to leave for the next robot station. Additionally, we also observed that robotic activities form natural collaborations and communications between pupils. They paid attention when the robots were speaking and got amused when the robots showed interesting body posture and/or facial expressions. 

Pupils interacting with Furhat (left) and Pepper (right) robots. Images: Veronika Zigraiová(left) and Mina Honarmandmozafari (right).

The study focused on the trust pupils have perceived from their interaction with different types of social robots. We made observations based on several guidelines, including “How do pupils react to the behavior of robots?”, “What emotional reactions/comments do the robots evoke in pupils?”, “Do pupils seem to form any social bond with the robots?” etc. On top of that, pupils were assigned homework of writing an essay about the robotic activities, which we just got freshly delivered by post, and cannot wait to start the data analysis. We greatly appreciate the collaboration with Varalan Urheiluopisto, which gave us the opportunity to conduct a scientific study through motivational hands-on activities with primary school pupils. Special thanks to the trust and support of the participating teachers, pupils, and parents, we hope you have had an unforgettable summer camp experience!  

Written by Chia from the CONVERGENCE of Humans and Machines project. The activity was co-facilitated by Aino, Aparajita, Nasim, Richa, Veronika, Mina, the responsible schoolteacher, and Varala instructors.