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Secondary Analysis of

Fictional Documentaries



In the design of social robots, the focus is often on the robot itself rather than on the intricacies of possible application scenarios. In this study, we examined eight fictional documentaries about social robots created by master students, such as SEYNO, a robot that promotes respect between passengers in trains, or PATO, a robot to watch movies with.


Overall, we found, robots were conceptualized either (1) to substitute humans in relationships or (2) to mediate relationships (human-human-robot-interaction). While the former is basis of many current approaches to social robotics, the latter is less common, but particularly interesting. For instance, the mediation perspective fundamentally impacts the role a robot takes (e.g., role model, black sheep, ally, opponent, moralizer) and thus its potential function and form. From the substitution perspective, robots are expected to mimic human emotions; from the mediation perspective, robots can be positive precisely because they remain objective and are neither emotional nor empathic.

The analysis will be published at CHI'23: 

Judith Dörrenbächer, Ronda Ringfort-Felner, Marc Hassenzahl: »The Intricacies of Social Robots: Secondary Analysis of Fictional Documentaries to Explore the Benefits and Challenges of Robots in Complex Social Settings«. Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’23), ACM 2023 (accepted).

Exemplary videos:

PARFAR by Julian Hester

SEYNO by Ronda Ringfort Felner, Valentin Puls

Excerpts of two fictional documentaries about robots mediating relationships: PARFAR solves conflicts between lovers (at the top) and SEYNO ensures respect between passengers in public transportation (bottom).

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