Why Study Human-Robot Interaction?

Natasha Randall, a researcher in the field of consumer robotics, sheds light on her motivation to study the intricate relationship between humans and robots. Through her research, she seeks to unravel the complex factors that shape our interactions with robots, and ultimately, to design robots that can better serve our needs and improve our quality of life.

Researching human-robot interaction

Nick: So it's a real joy to connect. And yeah, I stumbled upon your paper on ResearchGate. I couldn't believe it at first. I thought, what's this? So your paper is, "Finding ikigai: How robots can support meaning in later life"

And I thought, I'm going to read this. Your paper had all these citations to names I was familiar with. Actually, several people I've interviewed on my podcast. So I'm really glad we're talking to each other today. So yeah, what attracted you to research human-robot interaction?

Natasha: Yeah, so I had a pretty circuitous journey here. I've been in the field of human-robot interaction for about 10 years now, and I absolutely love it. I started off in marketing and business management, and so I did that for about 10 years.

And you could say that actually, I wanted to figure out what my ikigai was. Because I wasn't completely happy. One of my bachelor's degrees is in psychology, so I was looking at ways I could use that degree.

So I stumbled across human-robot interaction in that search. And really, for me, the first project, I'm from California, originally, and so my alma mater is UCSD in San Diego, and I reached out to a number of people working in human-robot interaction space there.

And the first project that I joined was actually using a replica of Albert Einstein's head. And we were looking at how people perceived that robot. And really, we're looking at it from a neurological perspective. So do different brain patterns get triggered when you're looking at this robot versus a real human?

Nick: Well, there you go. So that's a fascinating journey. So it seems like you might be a life student? Do you think that'll be the case?

Natasha: You could say that. It seems that way.