Project EMAR

May 14, 2019

EMAR in Virtual Reality vs. EMAR in Physical Reality


Blog post written by Wendy Xu and Honson Ling

Virtual reality is increasingly accessible, affordable and attractive to teens. Project EMAR has already designed a platform where teens collaborate to design a robot in VR. But what about having a robot interaction in VR? Do teens prefer a stress-related interaction with a virtual social robot or a physical robot?

During winter quarter, our team began to tackle the question of whether teens show preference for interacting with a robot in virtual reality or a physically embodied social robot. By reviewing relevant literature, we designed a study that invites high school students to share their stress story with a physical robot, a computer robot, or a robot in virtual reality. After each interaction, participants will report their experience with EMAR in each environment. After the teens have experienced EMAR in each environment, we’ll interview them about their experience and which environment they prefer.

Designing a social robot interaction

In each environment, our social robot interaction begins with a friendly introduction by EMAR. Then teens are asked to assess their mood and stress level. They are then invited to share a stress story with EMAR, report their stress and mood assessment, and participate in a final verbal stress-sharing activity. Each of these activities will prompt the teen to respond to EMAR either verbally or through touch-screen interaction.

A study design graphic detailing the process of teens interacting with a social robot

Figure 1: A graphic of our study design illustrates the process of inviting teens to share their stress story with a physical robot, a robot on a computer, and a robot in VR

During the final week of winter quarter, we tested the survey questions and the fluidity of the robot interaction with several adult volunteers. Based on their feedback, we made several minor modifications to the question survey, and added some pre-recorded verbal responses to our social robot prototype.

Next steps

Next quarter, we are aiming to pilot our full study with high school students once the design of the VR robot interaction is complete.

EMAR in virtual reality

Figure 2: A screenshot from our work-in-progress of EMAR in VR