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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

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published on November 28, 2019

Jaana Parviainen, Lina Van Aerschot, Tuomo Särkikoski, Satu Pekkarinen, Helinä Melkas, Lea Hennala

Motions with Emotions?
A Phenomenological Approach to Understanding the Simulated Aliveness of a Robot Body

This article examines how the interactive capabilities of companion robots, particularly their materiality and animate movements, appeal to human users and generate an image of aliveness. Building on Husserl’s phenomenological notion of a ‘double body’ and theories of emotions as affective responses, we develop a new understanding of the robots’ simulated aliveness. Analyzing empirical findings of a field study on the use of the robot Zora in care homes for older people, we suggest that the aliveness of companion robots is the result of a combination of four aspects: 1) material ingredients, 2) morphology, 3) animate movements guided by software programs and human operators as in Wizard of Oz-settings and 4) anthropomorphising narratives created by their users to support the robot’s performance. We suggest that narratives on affective states, such as, sleepiness or becoming frightened attached to the robot trigger users’ empathic feelings, caring and tenderness toward the robot.

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