Below are some reflections on the methodological aspects of the project. We are still in process of designing, performing and evaluating the robot guided museum tours, so it is far from a retrospective reflection concerning a finished project.
Discussing the exploratory studies made in 2015
The robot guided museum tours in fall 2015 has been developed through an iterative process of prototyping, testing, evaluating and adjusting the script – and as such based in an exploratory design practice.
In collaboration with the museum guide, Thorbjørn Bornhøft from Medical Museion, we made the script for the museum tours to be guided by the NAO robot. The process of developing the script posed concrete questions such as: How exactly should the robot interact with the museum visitors? Should the robot stand up, sit down, walk or point at specific museum objects? Should it use a lot of technical terms or explain the prosthetic objects with anecdotes and historical references? What kind of knowledge production and dissemination should be in play at the robot guided museum tour?
The robot was programmed to perform the script and interact with museum visitors moving around in front of the exhibited prosthetic objects, as it explained the exhibited artifacts to visitors. NAO was also programmed to ask questions to the visitors present in the room and to react to their answers. It was necessary to constantly adjust the behavior of the robot in-the-wild, because its reactions to the museum visitors were often unpredictable. Building on its emergent behaviors meant implementing design changes during the deployment, usually after its interactions.
“Designing in the wild differs from previous ethnographic approaches to interaction design by focusing on creating and evaluating new technologies in situ, rather than observing existing practices and then suggesting general design implications or system requirements.” (Rogers 2011:58)
The process from prototyping to evaluating the robot tour was mainly taking place in the wild; in the real-world environment that the museum space embodies. This is important because the context turned out to matter a great deal in making a meaningful interaction design; the exhibited objects, the social roles of the museum guide and the museum visitor that the museum space connoted, the norms for how to behave in the exhibition spaces as well as the actual acoustics and size of the room – it all shaped the human-robot-interaction.
The museum space provides this context wherein the interaction between the robot, museum visitors and the exhibited objects emerges. It is an intersection where social, organizational, cultural and physical factors converge to effect interactions in-the-wild. The museum space thus plays, as a contextual framework, a critical role in shaping the embodied interaction between museum visitors and the robot in that it effects how the museum visitors makes meaning from their interaction with the robot and exhibited artifacts. The museum space is what provides the visitors with a meaningful framework wherein they can reflect upon and interpret the interaction with the robot in-the-wild.
The robot guided museum tours at the Medical Museion have both been video recorded and semi-structured interviews have been conducted with the participating museum visitors about their experience of the NAO robot as a museum guide. The video documentation of the events enabled us to analyze the museum visitors’ reactions and interactions with NAO. The semi-structured interviews allowed us to connect the visitors’ reflections upon the experience of their interactions with the robot to their concrete interaction with the robot at the robot guided tour. These methods permitted us to be more concerned with what is experienced through actions, as Paul Dourish argues in his book , Where the Action Is, from 2001.
In our examination of the video documentation and semi-structured interviews with the museum visitors, we noticed a discrepancy between what the museum visitors said when interviewed and what they actually did: in the interviews all the visitors highlighted an interaction where the robot asks them to touch its arm as something highly engaging. However, in the video documentation of the tour only one visitor did in fact actively interact with the robot physically as seen on the picture below.
In our examination of the video documentation from the second designed robot museum tour we noticed, among other things, that not all the museum visitors felt compelled to stay till the end of the interaction with the robot. Indeed, during one of the situations where the robot delivers a somewhat lengthy explanation of an exhibited artifact, quite a few of the museum visitors moved on without staying until the end of the explanation.
The fact that the exploratory study was conducted in-the-wild made it possible to invite museum visitors to contribute to the design of the robot tour indirectly (through an examination of the video documentation) as well as directly (through the interviews). What the participating museum visitors said during the semi-structures interviews, will be discussed in the next post reflecting over the methodological aspects of our project.
Paul Dourish. 2001.Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Yvonne Rogers. 2011. Interaction design gone wild: striving for wild theory. ACM Interactions 18, 4: 58-62.