What Makes a Robot?

Understanding Perceptions of Robots Using a Draw-A-Robot Task


  • Jan-Ove Wiesner University of Vienna



Robots have been automating manufacturing and assembly processes for more than five decades. A wide range of applications has been added in recent years, including space and marine sciences, architecture and construction, medical care, agriculture, infrastructure, and emergency response. In this context, robots can take on any shape that enables their corresponding functions. Social interaction remains one of the grand challenges in robotics [1].


This exploratory study aims to understand the future of robotics by examining children's perceptions of robots in a mixed approach of qualitative and quantitative methods.

First, a Draw-A-Robot task is conducted, which is an adaptation of the draw-a-scientist test [2]. In this task students from 10 to 14 years old draw a robot in its environment on paper in the trial. The generation of this artifact will help them actively construct their perception of robots and serve as a basis for further analysis.

In the second part of the study, students will evaluate their robot drawings using a coding scheme developed in the context of this thesis. It will include categories such as the robot's assumed purpose, appearance characteristics related to embodiment, specific human-like features, locomotion methods, and communication capabilities. Finally, the results will be evaluated quantitatively.

In the third part of the study, interviews will be conducted to gather more in-depth information that could not be obtained through third-person analysis of the drawings or quantitative research alone.

Expected Results

The main goal of this study is to investigate children's perception of the embodiment of robots and how it relates to their functions. 

It is hypothesized that children's perceptions of robots vary concerning how human-like and technical features are attributed to robots. The impact of these features in terms of robot functionality and application is examined. The long-term goal of this project is to establish the Draw-A-Robot task as a measurement tool that can be broadly applied to diverse populations, create a large cross-cultural database, and to better understand common perceptions about robots.

Researchers can use this tool to understand how the perception of robots in children evolves over time or from interventions such as educational robotics workshops.


[1] G. Yang et al., "The grand challenges of Science Robotics", Science Robotics, vol. 3, pp. 1-14, 2018.

[2] D. Chambers, "Stereotypic images of the scientist: The draw-a-scientist test",Science Education, vol. 67, no. 2, pp. 255-265, 1983.