Honors College Thesis

Exploring the Effects of Voice Humanness and Canned Laughter on Robot Comedy Performance

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  • With robots becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s society, we need to find ways to help robots to become better accepted. One common method used to gain acceptance and build rapport is through the use of humor. Currently, research in robot comedy exists, albeit it is fairly limited. Our goal with this thesis is to help expand upon this space of robot comedy. Previous studies have shown that the voice pitch of a person is shown to have some level of influence on their perceived attractiveness. The effects of voice attractiveness are additive and tend to leave an overall more favorable impression upon others. Furthermore, groups who experienced canned laughter as a background sound to the jokes generated more mirthful behavior. However, they did not rate the jokes any higher, nor did they give higher “intellectual appreciation” scores towards the joke compared to the other group. Finally, one common method of leaving a favorable impression, as previously stated, is humor. Previous studies have shown that honest humor can increase likability as well as increase the attraction towards the individual utilizing humor. As with humans, the use of humor tends to make robots more appealing (i.e. more friendly, funny, likable, etc.) to individuals. With these three findings in mind, we set out to observe if the effects are similar with robots as they are with humans. This thesis aims to explore the effects of voice humanness and canned laughter on peoples’ perception of robots. To explore the effects of voice humanness and canned laughter on peoples’ perception of robots, specifically robot comedians, two online surveys were issued via the OSU School of Psychological Science Experiment Sign-up System. For each of the two between-subjects studies, respondents were asked to view a comedy routine performed by Jon the Robot then answer questions pertaining to said performance. Pilot responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics and statistical tests. While these are preliminary results, the results show that having too human of a voice may potentially cause the robot to be negatively perceived. Furthermore, as with human performances, current observations suggest that canned laughter can increase an individual’s perception of a robot as well as the comedy set it performs. Suggestions for future social robots, specifically robots in entertainment, is to find the right middle ground between a more human voice and a robotic voice. This will be beneficial to helping users feel more comfortable with robots as well as enjoy their experience more. Furthermore, utilizing canned laughter or a group setting where people are able to easily laugh will aid the robot as, at the moment, it appears that when laughter is paired with a robot, the perceptions of the robot from individuals become more positive.
  • Key Words: Social robots, Voice pitch, Humor, Robot comedy, Human-robot interaction
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