International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 5–24 | Cite as

Social Robots and Seniors: A Comparative Study on the Influence of Dynamic Social Features on Human–Robot Interaction

  • Christina MoroEmail author
  • Shayne Lin
  • Goldie Nejat
  • Alex Mihailidis


Due to the world’s aging demographics and declining caregiver-to-senior ratio, socially assistive robots are being designed to assist seniors with activities of daily living. Beyond functionality, the integration of such robots also depends on the quality of the interaction between the robot and senior, including the provision of social support. Our research investigates the effectiveness of robot social features on human–robot interaction (HRI) with seniors when providing assistance. Specifically, we investigate how the dynamic social features of a robot, such as facial expressions and gestures, affect the interaction experience of cognitively impaired seniors during an assistive activity. In this paper, we present a comparative HRI study of seniors living with mild cognitive impairments preparing a cup of tea with the assistance from three different embodiments with varying social features. In particular, the platforms considered were a human-like robot, a character-like robot, and a tablet display. Our results show that a human-like robot having an expressive face and arm gestures significantly increased levels of engagement, positive affect, and perceived social intelligence during the interaction when compared to the other two platforms. Furthermore, even though all platforms had the same activity assistance functionality, participants preferred the human-like robot, treated it like a companion, perceived it to be more useful, and were more inclined to keep it in social or private areas in their homes. No statistically significant differences were found between interactions with the character-like robot and the tablet.


Human–robot interaction Socially assistive robots Robot social features Multi-robot study Robots for eldercare 



This work was funded by the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), AGE-WELL NCE Inc. and the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program. We would also like to thank Belmont House and its residents and staff for their support and involvement in the studies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autonomous Systems and Biomechatronics Laboratory (ASBLab), Department of Mechanical and Industrial EngineeringUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab (IATSL)University of Toronto and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health NetworkTorontoCanada
  3. 3.AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence Inc.TorontoCanada

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