Robots in Public Space

Investigating the impact of robots on public space

'Investigating the impact of robots on public space is a research project that aims to improve how we understand the impact that robots have on the atmosphere of public space. It will bring social scientific conceptual and methodological frameworks to a new study of human-robot interaction and new applications of socio-affective robotics, this will include interdisciplinary design workshops to test, refine and communicate these frameworks throughout the project. This project is novel and ambitious in its interdisciplinary breadth, speculative approach and focuses on a rapidly-developing high-impact research area.

Seed funding from the Data Futures Institute Interdisciplinary Research fund will develop a new, interdisciplinary methodology for understanding how robots affect the atmosphere of public space for people, and identify relevant implications for public policy based on these new insights.

“Robotic technologies are increasingly present in urban public spaces, with applications for delivery, cleaning, security and wayfinding already in city spaces around the world. However, beyond the uses that designers and engineers intend, robots shape how our shared spaces feel – although very little is known about their impact and effects on public space, or the appropriate policy settings to oversee them. This new interdisciplinary project addresses this by developing new methodologies and policy insights for this rapidly proliferating technology”

Associate Professor Shanti Sumartojo

By developing and releasing mobile robots into public research sites at Monash University, the research team will work with the people who spend time in these places to understand how robots affect the atmosphere and ‘feel’ of these locations. Using a design ethnographic approach, researchers will seek to understand how participants make sense of and understand the robots and use these insights to develop the technologies for further research.

Researchers: Associate Professor Shanti Sumartojo (MADA), Professor Dana Kulic and Dr Leimin Tian (Engineering) and Prof Michael Mintrom (Arts). Funded by the Data Futures Institute.

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