News Release

“My robot is a softie”: Physical texture influences judgments of robot personality

Researchers from Osaka University and Kanazawa University discover how body texture influences perceptions of robot personality

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Osaka University


image: Estimated mechanism of personality impression formation view more 

Credit: Hisashi Ishihara

Osaka, Japan – impressions of a robot’s personality can be influenced by the way it looks, sounds, and feels. But now, researchers from Japan have found specific causal relationships between impressions of robot personality and body texture.

In a study published in Advanced Robotics, researchers from Osaka University and Kanazawa University have revealed that a robot’s physical texture interacts with elements of its appearance in a way that influences impressions of its personality.

Body texture, such as softness or elasticity, is an important consideration in the design of robots meant for interactive functions. In addition, appearance can modulate whether a person anticipates a robot to be friendly, likable, or capable, among other characteristics.

However, the ways in which people perceive the physical texture and the personality of robots have only been examined independently. As a result, the relationships between these two factors is unclear, something the researchers aimed to address.

“The mechanisms of impression formation should be quantitatively and systematically investigated,” says lead author of the study Naoki Umeda. “Because various factors contribute to personality impression, we wanted to investigate how specific robot body properties promote or deteriorate specific kinds of impressions.”

To do this, the researchers asked adult participants to view, touch, and evaluate six different inactive robots that were humanoid to varying degrees. The participants were asked to touch the arm of the robots. For each robot, four fake arms had been constructed; these were made of silicone rubber and prepared in such a way that their elasticity varied, thus providing differing touch sensations. The causal relationships between the physical textures of the robot arms and the participant perceptions were then evaluated.

“The results confirmed our expectations,” explains Hisashi Ishihara, senior author. “We found that the impressions of the personalities of the robots varied according to the texture of the robot arms, and that there were specific relationships among certain parameters.”

The researchers also found that the first impressions of the robots, made before the participants touched them, could modulate one of the effects.

“We found that the impression of likability was strengthened when the participant anticipated that the robot would engage in peaceful emotional verbal communication. This suggests that both first impressions and touch sensations are important considerations for social robot designers focused on perceived robot personality,” says Ishihara.

Given that many robots are designed for physical interaction with humans—for instance those used in therapy or clinical settings—the texture of the robot body is an important consideration. A thorough understanding of the physical factors that influence user impressions of robots will enable researchers to design robots that optimize user comfort. This is especially important for robots employed for advanced communication, because user comfort will influence the quality of communication, and thus the utility of the robotic system.


The article, “The first impressions of small humanoid robots modulate the process of how touch affects personality what they are” was published in Advanced Robotics at


About Osaka University

Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and is now one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities with a broad disciplinary spectrum. This strength is coupled with a singular drive for innovation that extends throughout the scientific process, from fundamental research to the creation of applied technology with positive economic impacts. Its commitment to innovation has been recognized in Japan and around the world, being named Japan's most innovative university in 2015 (Reuters 2015 Top 100) and one of the most innovative institutions in the world in 2017 (Innovative Universities and the Nature Index Innovation 2017). Now, Osaka University is leveraging its role as a Designated National University Corporation selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to contribute to innovation for human welfare, sustainable development of society, and social transformation.




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