Will Your Household Adopt Your New Robot?

Domestic robots have slowly found their way into some of our homes and onto the shelves of major stores selling technical appliances. Who hasn’t already seen or heard of robots that vacuum or mow the lawn? As researchers in robotics, we feel this growing commercial success is a great opportunity to learn about robot adoption processes. Leaving the marketing buzz and usual fantasies about robot invasions aside, we are curious to find out how robots are perceived by users. Are robots revolutionizing people’s practices at home? Understanding the adoption of such robots is also central, as it helps to pinpoint crucial factors to be taken into account while designing new robots. Other questions we wish to consider include: What convinces people to adopt them? What stops people from adopting them? What features or concepts should be transferred to future robot generations? To answer these questions, we conducted an ethnographic study that analyzed how people adopted or rejected a vacuum-cleaning robot in their homes [1]. We gave a popular commercially available robot (iRobot’s Roomba) to nine households and observed them over a period of six months [2]. We recruited households with and without children, pets, and gardens. We analyzed cleaning habits before Roomba. We then observed how they evolved from the moment we brought them the robot: at installa- tion, after two weeks, and then two and four months after installation.

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