Heat Interaction for Humans & Hug Robots - Design Testing of Hug Pillows for Children


  • Nico Henschel Comenius University Bratislava


In recent years the interaction between children and robots has received increased attention. To further understanding of human robot interaction in particular the dynamic between developmental cognition and responsive objects can help build more secure and ethical applications. Responsive objects designed to provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support, hold promise for various applications, including therapy, education, and entertainment. A critical component for child robot interaction with huggable objects, such as hug pillows is the mediation for the sense of touch and social presence through synchronization [1, 2]. The purpose of this paper is to compare the specific dynamics and implications of child-hug robot interactions, focusing on the role of touch in facilitating emotional connections.

By examining existing literature and conducting an empirical field observations, we aim to gain insights into how children perceive and respond to huggables, as well as the potential benefits and challenges that might be associated with these interactions. One aspect of interest is categorizing and exploring the physical properties, such as softness, perceived implemented responsiveness and warmth. Research suggests that these factors can significantly influence the child's perception of the robot's social presence and their willingness to engage with it. [2]

Furthermore, this paper will explore the emotional and psychological effects of a particular hug robot interaction with an already existing prototype, in the form of a pillow. Understanding the underlying mechanisms behind the effects the hugbit (hug-pillow) can help shape the design and implementation of robots that effectively support children's emotional development. By investigating the design elements that contribute to a more comforting tactile experience, we can inform the development of future huggable robots that better meet the needs of children.

Design categories were derived from existing literature (n=30) and by conducting preliminary field tests, which compared interactional dynamics and implications of child-hug robot interactions. A particular finding were 3 out of 6 design tenets derived from literature for hug-robot interactions; hug robots should: be sized similar to an adult human, be soft, and be warm. [3]

Lastly, ethical considerations surrounding child-hug robot interaction will be discussed, such as overt anthropomorphism or lack of control and consent regarding the interaction. As children are vulnerable individuals, it is crucial to ensure their safety, privacy, and consent in these interactions. Examining ethical guidelines and addressing potential risks, such as dependency or substitution of human relationships, will contribute to responsible and beneficial use of huggable robots in child-robot interactions.

In summary, this paper aims to contribute to the growing body of knowledge on child-hug robot interaction by investigating the role of touch, exploring emotional and psychological effects, and addressing ethical considerations. The findings of this research will have implications for the design, development, and deployment of huggable robots.



[1] E. Nunez, M. Hirokawa, A. Hautasaari, and K. Suzuki, “Remote communication via huggable interfaces - behavior synchronization and social presence,” CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts, 2022. doi:10.1145/3491101.3519699

[2] A. E. Block, S. Christen, R. Gassert, O. Hilliges, and K. J. Kuchenbecker, “The Six Hug Commandments: Design and Evaluation of a Human-Sized Hugging Robot with Visual and Haptic Perception,” in Proceedings of the 2021 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction. New York: Association for Computing Machinery, pp. 380–388, 2021. doi:10.1145/3434073.3444656