I am currently working towards my PhD, tentatively entitled “Friend Me Your Ears: Social Bonds and Musical Robots”. Basically, longer term studies into human-robot social interaction present issues with the novelty effect, where an initially positive response recedes over time. This may be attributed to the robots’s lack of highly sophisticated behaviours necessary to maintain a social relationship using language and gesture, and a lack of adaption, development and personalisation. We suggest that using regular, open-ended and adaptive musical activity as the foundation of an interaction, as a pursuit which is naturally progressive and fitted by many into regular routines, may go someway to producing more positive results.

As such, we’ve built a robot. Introducing Mortimer. Mortimer has a moving head and face, two beater arms and a mechanical bass drum and can improvise in real time with human piano players.

Results suggest the more social behaviours you add onto the robot, the more engaged people are and the more they treat it like a social being. This includes playing for longer overall, playing for longer uninterrupted, interrupting the robot less and looking at it more.


L. McCallum and P. W. McOwan. Shut Up and Play: A Musical Approach to Engagement and Social Presence in Human Robot Interaction. In Proc 2014 Robot and Human Interactive Communication Conf., pages 949–954, Edinburgh, 2014.

Show Us Your Screens Documentary with Davy Smith into Live Coding Practice, published Computer Music Journal, Winter 2011, DVD attachment

IWARP: Interactions With A Robotic Percussionist Undergraduate Thesis, Winner of 2010 School Prize for Best Artificial Intelligence Project

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