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Trouble and Repair in Child–Robot Interaction: A Study of Complex Interactions With a Robot Tutee in a Primary School Classroom

Journal article
Authors Sofia Serholt
Lena Pareto
Sara Ekström
Sara Ljungblad
Published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI
Volume 7
Issue 46
Pages 13
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Department of Computer Science and Engineering (GU)
Pages 13
Language en
Keywords child–robot interaction, education, social robotics, interaction trouble and repair, group interaction, robot tutee, in the wild, classroom study
Subject categories Robotics, Human Aspects of ICT, Educational Sciences


Today, robots are studied and expected to be used in a range of social roles within classrooms. Yet, due to a number of limitations in social robots, robot interactions should be expected to occasionally suffer from troublesome situations and breakdowns. In this paper, we explore this issue by studying how children handle interaction trouble with a robot tutee in a classroom setting. The findings have implications not only for the design of robots, but also for evaluating their benefit in, and for, educational contexts. In this study, we conducted video analysis of children's group interactions with a robot tutee in a classroom setting, in order to explore the nature of these troubles in the wild. Within each group, children took turns acting as the primary interaction partner for the robot within the context of a mathematics game. Specifically, we examined what types of situations constitute trouble in these child–robot interactions, the strategies that individual children employ to cope with this trouble, as well as the strategies employed by other actors witnessing the trouble. By means of Interaction Analysis, we studied the video recordings of nine group interaction sessions (n = 33 children) in primary school grades 2 and 4. We found that sources of trouble related to the robot's social norm violations, which could be either active or passive. In terms of strategies, the children either persisted in their attempts at interacting with the robot by adapting their behavior in different ways, distanced themselves from the robot, or sought the help of present adults (i.e., a researcher in a teacher role, or an experimenter) or their peers (i.e., the child's classmates in each group). In terms of the witnessing actors, they addressed the trouble by providing guidance directed at the child interacting with the robot, or by intervening in the interaction. These findings reveal the unspoken rules by which children orient toward social robots, the complexities of child–robot interaction in the wild, and provide insights on children's perspectives and expectations of social robots in classroom contexts.

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