Video: Can drones trigger emotional responses?

03 June 2021

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have conducted what it claims are the first studies that examine how people respond to various emotional facial expressions depicted on a drone.

The goal is to foster greater social acceptance of these flying robots by revealing how people react to common facial expressions superimposed on drones.

"There is a lack of research on how drones are perceived and understood by humans, which is vastly different than ground robots." said Jessica Cauchard, professor in the BGU Department of Industrial Engineering & Management. "For the first time, we showed that people can recognize different emotions and discriminate between different emotion intensities."

BGU conducted two studies using a set of rendered robotic facial expressions on drones that convey basic emotions using core features of eyes, eyebrows, pupils and mouth. The results show that five different emotions can be recognized with high accuracy in static stimuli and four emotions in dynamic videos. These emotions range from joy, sadness, fear, anger and surprise.

"Participants were further affected by the drone and presented different responses, including empathy, depending on the drone's emotion," Cauchard said. "Surprisingly, participants created narratives around the drone's emotional states and included themselves in these scenarios."

BGU is looking to enhance the acceptability of drones for use in emotional support and other social situations to include anthropomorphic features using the five basic emotions and using empathetic responses to drive compliance in health and behavior change applications.

The full research can be found in the journal ACM Digital Library.

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