‘Designing the Robot Body: Critical Perspectives on Affective Embodied Interaction’ Special Issue

What follows is an announcement that my coeditors and I have had our special issue proposal for the journal Transactions in Human-Robot Interaction accepted by the editors. We have a Call for Papers – do join us!

Guest Editors: Mark Paterson (University of Pittsburgh), Guy Hoffman (Cornell University), Caroline Yan Zheng (Royal College of Art)


Designing and evaluating the affectivity of the robot body has become a frontier topic in Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). In particular, there is growing interest in how sensory properties elicit users’ affective and emotional states, as well as morphological considerations. How do the tactile properties of materials influence user interaction? Why do certain morphologies and materials prompt more empathetic interactions than others? This recognition of the fostering of affect within machinic corporeality has been of interest to a number of academic communities of late, including designers and engineers.

The objective of this Special Issue is to widen this participation and discussion further, to consider theoretical, ethical, empirical, and methodological questions related to the design of robotic bodies in the context of affective human-robot interaction, and so foster cross-currents among engineering, design, social science, and artistic communities. We aim to explore topics bridging embodiment and affect, and design and engineering, through consideration of such factors as the use of materials, the significance of physical form, and the role of nonverbal communication in the production of artificial empathy. We encourage submissions which tackle issues of diversity within user group perspectives, including race, gender, and visible and invisible disabilities.

Paper Topics

We are interested in insights which, broadly speaking, either consider HRI ‘in the lab’ or ‘in the wild.’ In the lab: exploring questions for the design of robotic bodies and their affective qualities by involving contributions from designers or empirically-based laboratory case studies. In the wild: including more conceptual and historical work to consider sociological, philosophical, and methodological questions in studying affective relations between humans and robot embodiments. To this end, we envisage a mixture of full-length papers (c10,000 words), a series of shorter ‘position papers’ (c2,500-3,000 words), and some hybrids (c4,000-5,000 words) between the two. 

We encourage papers in the following topic areas, although this is not exhaustive:

  • Current challenges in designing affective physical embodiment in robots—materials, kinesthetics, sensory experience, and behaviors involved in affective computing
  • Acknowledging a user’s emotional needs within an interaction, and how well those needs are met
  • Empirical findings related to the connection between a robot’s embodiment and affective interaction.
  • Novel or emergent properties which result from fostering affective interactions with robots
  • Developing design frameworks and methodologies to approach the above questions
  • Developing theoretical frameworks and social science methodologies for evaluating affect and embodiment in human-robot interactions

Paper Submissions

Papers are to be submitted via the usual journal process for peer review, using Manuscript Central on the THRI website. Please refer to the Author Guidelines on their website. Please direct any of your enquiries to one of the Guest Editors listed below.

Paper submission deadline: May 1 2021.

Guest Editors

Myself, of course. Also, the wonderfully talented Guy Hoffman and Caroline Yan Zheng.

Guy Hoffman (hoffman@cornell.edu) is an Associate Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. Prior to that he was an Assistant Professor at IDC Herzliya and co-director of the IDC Media Innovation Lab. Hoffman holds a Ph.D from MIT in the field of human-robot interaction. He heads the Human-Robot Collaboration and Companionship (HRC2) group, studying the algorithms, interaction schema, and designs enabling close interactions between people and personal robots in the workplace and at home.

Caroline Yan Zheng (yan.zheng@network.rca.ac.uk) is a PhD candidate and visiting lecturer with Information Experience Design, Royal College of Art, London. She founded Affective Futures, an initiative for interdisciplinary participants to propose, probe and prototype the futures of our emotional life with technologies and robots. In collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research UK and Imperial College London, her current design research focuses on creating soft robotic interfaces that simulate human affective touch and exploring their applications in improving patient experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑