The project aims to use robotics to enhance animal welfare education programmes for the benefit of humans and animals.
Animal welfare education is important because as children learn about responsible animal care they are more likely to have healthy, safe relationships with animals throughout their lives. For this reason, charities like the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) go into schools to run education programmes, reaching hundreds of thousands of children annually. However, the SSPCA does not use live animals with schoolchildren for a wide variety of reasons, from animal welfare concerns to the risk of bites or scratches, and have been looking into using robots to make the programmes more engaging and effective. Unfortunately, current zoomorphic sociorobots are largely unsuitable for this task and there is a need to develop a new robotic solution. The project will develop such a robot, exploring the behavioural and morphological features needed to promote a sense of lifelikeness.
My current work is using MiRo, a biomimetic robot, to begin the investigation into child-robot interactions in the context of animal welfare education, namely how children’s attitudes to animals and robots impact their interactions with a robotic animal, what animistic beliefs they hold about the robotic animal, and how the behaviour of the robot itself affects those beliefs.
I did my undergraduate in Engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 2020, but I spent my third year studying abroad at the National University of Singapore. My master’s project was at the Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory under the supervision of Dr Fumiya Iida on autonomous dishwasher loading from cluttered canteen trays. Outside my PhD, I enjoy playing cricket and solving cryptic crosswords.