hamish tennent

Micbot Group Robotics Research

Research and Design Lead

In 2018 I was working in a research lab focused on studying the effects of a robot on interpersonal group dynamics, which is a very young field. Robots in this field are mostly anthropomorphic and are used in a participant role. They are placed as an equal part of the group with humans. I pushed to design and study a robot in a new paradigm, whereby the robot was there as a ‘peripheral robotic object'. This would position the robot as an extension of the environment meant to benefit but not be a part of the group. This new paradigm formed into its own research project that I lead and would become the lead author in publishing in a top journal as scientifically novel.

2017 -> 2018
Key Methods: Experience Prototyping. Scientific testing. UX Frameworks.
Three seats around a round table with a microphone robot on the table, demonstrating the study setup.
Graph of our results from our study showing our robots behaviours caused groups of 3 participants to perofrm better at problem solving tasks.
Research results. Our robot and its pro social behaviours caused the group to collaborate better and perform better on a problem solving task.
Three people solving problems around a table, taken from our research study.
Project Information

The real magic in this project was created from months of experience prototyping different forms, behaviours, speeds and sounds in order to strike the balance of supportive but not disruptive robot behaviours. Using the metaphor of non-verbally handing a microphone to someone to encourage them to speak, we created a group dynamic where everyone contributed more evenly.

After a number of experiments and a full research study over 18 months, we published results showing positive group outcomes in a top conference in the field. The groups of participants in our study scored higher on collaborative tasks when the robot acted with the behaviours I created. To date 65+ other academic papers have cited our paper since 2019, among the top cited papers from the entire conference that year.