Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Adaptation Profiles in First-Time Robot Users: Towards Understanding Adaptation Patterns and Their Implications for Design

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Adaptation Profiles in First-Time Robot Users: Towards Understanding Adaptation Patterns and Their Implications for Design

Article excerpt


With every new product entering the market, an adaptation process takes place. From a human-centered design perspective, this raises important questions: How far does our understanding reach as to how people actually come to accept and adapt to these new products? How can designers know that the product they are developing is, in the words of Raymond Loewy (1951), “most advanced, yet acceptable” (p. 277) enough for people to make it part of their lives? Furthermore, which are the elements that a successful adaptation depends on? How do they differ from people to people, country to country, product to product? What can be considered as new technology in the eyes of users generally varies based on its degree of novelty, from a specific improvement in one of the features of a known product, to a major breakthrough that gives birth to a new product typology about which little is known. The latter is expected to be the case with robotic products (Tobe, 2015), whose high degree of automation in movement, perception, cognition, and action (M. Kim, Oh, Choi, Jung, & Kim, 2011) represents a major shift in how people perform and think of given tasks, thus having an influence on their lifestyles. Additionally, they present a major challenge for first-time users to adapt to and get familiarized with them.

Moreover, this study’s contextual scenario highlights an imminent expansion in domestic robot technologies (Ballve, 2014; Tobe, 2015), and a market expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.8% from 2016 to 2022 (P&S Market Research, 2016), and to be valued at 9 billion USD by 2025 (Sander & Wolfgang, 2014). This context creates a need for developers and designers alike to understand how people will come to accept robotic products and adapt their current lifestyles to them.

In this regard, domestic robotic products have had significant success particularly in the market for robot vacuum cleaners (Ballve, 2014). The first prototype of a robot vacuum cleaner was developed by the Swedish appliance company Electrolux in 1997, and such a product was introduced into the market a few years later (National Academy of Engineering, 2016). However, it was in 2002 that these robotic products became a major success with the introduction of the Roomba by the American company iRobot, attracting major manufacturers to the robotic floor cleaning market, including LG, Samsung, Neato, and Hoover (Ballve, 2014). Accordingly, several studies have been conducted to understand the nature of the interactions such products elicit, not only from the standpoint of robot engineering (Breazeal, 2002; Brooks, 2008; Kanda, Sato, Saiwaki, & Ishiguro, 2007), but also from those of the social sciences (Duffy, 2003; Robertson, 2014) and design (M. Kim et al., 2011; Lee, Sung, Šabanović, & Han, 2012). More recently, research studying the characteristics of such interactions over extended periods of time (Sung, Grinter, & Christensen, 2010) has given initial insights into the adaptation process.

However, as robot vacuum cleaners have continued to gain in popularity with households, it has become evident that there is a need for a systematic way of identifying the nature of the interactions they provoke—a way that considers contextual variations (Fink, Bauwens, Mubin, Kaplan, & Dillenbourg, 2011), bearing in mind not only that robotic products themselves possess particular social attributes that evolve over time (Sung, Christensen, & Grinter, 2009), but also that the adaptation process generally depends on the users’ own perceptions and attitudes towards any new technology or system (Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw, 1989).

Thus this study was seen as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of how people adapt to new technologies, by taking Samsung’s Powerbot VR9000 (see Figure 1) into two significantly different scenarios: one in a country with more than a decade of history of robot vacuum cleaners in the market and a strong interest from the government in having robotic products in every home (Weng, Chen, & Sun, 2009), as is the case in South Korea; and the other in a country that does not yet have an established robotic products market, as is the case in Peru (Ballve, 2014). …

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