A Robot with Personality: How to (responsibly) design a digital persona?

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: S of Mathematical and Computer Sciences


Social Robots and other artificial agents are often designed to have a digital persona. A digital persona can be viewed as a composite of elements of identity (such as demographics and background facts), behaviour, and interaction style.
These are deliberate design choices, often influenced by common perceptions, such as female voices being more `pleasant' when choosing a synthesised voice and gender. However, these design choices bear the risk of reinforcing social stereotypes, according to the UNESCO (West et al., 2019).

In this project, we will we will be looking to reflect personality not only by different synthesised voices, but also personality expressed in language and multimodal behaviour, conversational content and interaction style, building upon previous work on using neural generative models for personality-based linguistic style generation and generating responses which factually consistent with a persona profile.

We will also look to consider what role such persona profiles play in the context of human-robot interaction, whilst working closely with social psychologists to anticipate the social impacts these artificial personas might have. In particular, we will investigate:

(i) the (objective) impact/importance of robot persona (including gender) in HRI
(ii) if/how robots can/should effectively respond to abuse/inappropriate behaviour

Eventually, we aim to build a data-driven mapping between conversational behaviour (e.g. voice, linguistic style and content) and perceived personality traits, such as gender, age, trustworthiness etc.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023208/1 30/09/2019 30/03/2028
2603221 Studentship EP/S023208/1 12/09/2021 11/09/2025 Nikolaos Vitsakis