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Interactive Teaching and Assistance with a Proactive Robotic Assistant

Respond by: 17th February 2023

What is the purpose of this study?

The aim of this study is to evaluate an application which enables a proactive robot assistant to learn how to collaborate and offer assistance during activities of daily life at home, and can then provide help proactively in the future.

If you agree to participate, you will be introduced to the robot and the application by a member of the research team. Then, the study will proceed in two phases, as outlined below. Each phase will be followed with a set of questions designed to gauge the usability of the application and your experience.

Teaching Phase (A)

In this condition, you will take on the role of the teacher while completing a task in collaboration with the robot assistant. In this case, you are teaching the robot its role in the task. You will make use of the robot’s features to achieve the task.

Assistance Phase (B)

In this condition, the robot will seek to autonomously assist you during the same task as in the teaching phase. In this case, the robot will be autonomously recognise when to offer help to you, and you can choose to accept that help.

Why have I been chosen?

This study is suitable for adults aged 18 or over, and who do not fall into any vulnerable users groups.

Do I have to take part?

It is up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you decide to take part, you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason. Please contact the study organisers outlined below.

What will happen to me if I take part?

You will attend an assigned session at the Robotic Assisted Living Testbed (RALT) on the Heriot-Watt University campus in Edinburgh. The session should last no more than one hour.

Upon arrival, you will be briefed with information that will help you in exercising your role in the study. If you choose to participate, you will be required to complete a participant consent form. The researcher will inform you which task you will be completing.

During your session, you will be introduced to the testbed facilities, which seek to mimic a modern one bedroom smart apartment. You will be asked to treat the apartment as if it were your own home in order to encourage naturalistic behaviour while you complete your tasks.

You will be introduced to the application and the robot by the researcher, which includes an overview of what the application can do and how to use it.

We will ask you to attach a microphone to the lapel / rim of your clothing, near your face. This microphone is what you will use to interact with the robot.

You will then complete the assigned task in the testbed environment, with the robot. During this time, we will record audio for transcription of your interactions with the robot.

Once you have completed the task, you will be invited to complete some questionnaires about your feelings towards / experiences with the application. After which, the data from your session will be immediately collated and stored in a local database of participant data for later analysis.

Will my taking part in this study be kept confidential?

Any information collected about you during the course of research will be kept strictly confidential.

You will be given a unique code known only to the researcher and their supervisor, and so they will be the only individuals able to personally identify you.

Your responses to the demographics questionnaire and to the questionnaires associated with the main part of the study will feature only your participant identifier. As such, your responses to these questions are pseudonymised to any other researchers that may examine the data from this study in the future.

Anonymised results may appear in relevant scientific venues such as conference proceedings or journals. In this case, we will talk about quantitative results on the whole e.g. “participants favoured behaviour X over behaviour Y, with a mean acceptability score of M = 3.59 for X…” or individual responses without any clear link to other responses, e.g. “one participant indicated that they strongly agreed with our statement that…”. We may also use excerpts from free-from qualitative responses, without attribution, e.g. “one participant said ‘the fourth option seemed better to me because the robot was smiling’, and this shows…”

What will happen to the results of the research study?

The data gathered from this study will be used to help us understand the usability and acceptability of our application for interactive proactive robotic assistance.

The results of this study may be published into the public domain, e.g. through scientific conference proceedings or journal issues.

Who is funding this research?

This research is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), grant number EP/L016834/1, as part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Heriot-Watt University and The University of Edinburgh.

Will I be compensated for this study?

Participation in this study is voluntary. If you complete this study, you will be provided with a £20 Amazon voucher as a token of thanks for your participation.

What are the possible risks of taking part?

There are no known risks to taking part in this study.

What will happen if I don’t wish to carry on with the study?

If you decide that you no longer wish to take part you can withdraw at any time without giving a reason. Please inform the project researcher, Ronnie Smith.

Who do I contact for further information?

If you have any questions about this study, please contact Ronnie Smith or Mauro Dragone in the first instance.

What do I need to know about privacy and confidentiality?

Heriot-Watt University is the data controller for the personal data collected in this project. This means that we are responsible under data protection law for making sure your personal information is kept secure, confidential and used only in the way you have been told it will be used.

Only the researcher and their supervisor will have access to the personal information that you provide and they will anonymise it as soon as possible.

We will keep your personal information securely and ensure that no one will be able to link the research data you provide to any identifying information you may supply.

No information that could identify you will appear in any report on the results of this research.

We will collect and use your personal data for this project to undertake research in the public interest as part of our core purpose under our University Charter and Statutes.

If you decide to stop taking part in this study, we will not be able to withdraw all of your data from the study if this will have an adverse impact on the integrity and validity of the research. If we can withdraw from the study your data that has been collected or generated within the research project, we will usually need to retain a record of your initial consent to participate within the project governance documentation for as long as required for audit purposes.

If you would like to know more about what Heriot-Watt University does with your personal data and your rights under privacy law, please visit our data protection web pages at or contact our Data Protection Officer by email at

What happens at the end of the project?

The researcher will use the findings of the research to produce a PhD thesis and publications in relevant conference proceedings and/or scientific journals.

After the project ends, we may retain data for up to 10 years or deposit the dataset in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) data repository where it is necessary for scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes.

What if I have questions or concerns?

If you have any questions about this study, please contact Ronnie Smith or Mauro Dragone in the first instance.

If you have a concern or complaint about the study please contact Prof. Jonathan D. Shephard by email ( or by post at School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, EH14 4AS.

If you have any questions or concerns about the use of your personal data or your rights under data protection law please contact Thank you for reading this information sheet and for your interest in this research. If you decide to take part, you should retain a copy of this information sheet.

How can I take part?

Please get in touch with the researchers running the study:

Who has reviewed the study?

This research has been reviewed by the Ethics Committee in the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, project number 4743.

Privacy Notice

If you would like to find out more about what Heriot-Watt University (the data controller) does with your personal data and your rights under privacy law, please read our information for participants in academic research projects, or contact our Data Protection Officer, by post at Data Protection Officer, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, EH14 4AS, or by email at