In this project we use Theatre Arts performance methodologies for an assistive robot to serve the participants in the Office of Student Disabilities, Lakewood Village Retirement Community, and the main office for The Dept. of Theatre Arts. This is a study to inform how Human—Robot Interaction (HRI), specifically the use of improvisational humor in an assistive robot, may positively impact attitudes between humans and robots. The scope of the project will be the development of a pilot study and data collection of human—robot responses from the participants in the three specified locations. Measurement will be through an adaptation of the NARS (Negative Attitudes toward Robots Scale), visual qualitative observation, and log entries of human—robot interactions including ambient sound for the detection of laughter and vocal responses from participants. The innovative approach of this research comes from the interdisciplinary work of UTA Theatre Arts and UTARI, bringing together divergent disciplines of theater arts and robotics. This study builds on previous published work on social robots, voice, movement theatre techniques, and waiting room settings to further the body of HRI literature. The robot will be controlled through a “Wizard—of—Oz” research structure performed by undergraduate research assistants under the supervision of faculty. The project will conduct an innovative investigation of the best social robot and HRI practices available at UT—Arlington (UTARI robotic platform laboratory) as well as best practices for improvisation/humor techniques, applied drama, and performance studies. Preliminary data will be collected to allow for future studies and breakthroughs in Human—Robot Interaction. We feel this proposal is well—suited to add to a discussion of UT—Arlington’s strategic initiatives; Health and the Human Condition and Data—Driven Discovery.


We will use these measurements to evaluate the effectiveness of humor on HRI. We anticipate the innovative use of humor with an assistive robot in three divergent settings will positively impact the attitude of participants in a positive manner. The results of the cost-effective Wizard-of-Oz scenario with the DAH grant would be a first step toward the validation of our approach and the application toward larger external funding . We see the results being applicable to a majority of robotic platforms that seek to improve HRI in the fields of healthcare, business, and education, among others.

Principal Investigator: Julienne A. Greer, Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts

Co-Investigator: Kris Doelling, Research Scientist, UTARI