Using User-Generated YouTube Videos to Understand Unguided Interactions with Robots in Public Places

Sara Nielsen*, Mikael B. Skov, Karl Damkjær Hansen, Aleksandra Kaszowska

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Professional service robots are increasingly being deployed in public places, which thus increases user exposure. However, we lack an empirical understanding of complex encounters taking place in dynamic and often crowded environments as well as how people overcome breakdowns during unguided interaction with a robot in a real-world scenario. In this paper, we conducted a covert, digital ethnographic study analyzing 104 user-generated YouTube videos focusing on people’s unguided interactions with robots in several public places. We identiied several types of interaction breakdowns pertaining to someone (person-initiated interaction breakdown, IB) or something (environmental disturbances, ED) having a direct, negative efect on an ongoing unguided interaction. Our indings have implications for the design and development of service robots facing multi-user scenarios entertaining active (primary and secondary) users, inactive (commentators and observers) ’users’ and InCoPs. Furthermore, we contribute to and built on the limited prior use of YouTube videos and digital ethnography in HRI research, thereby demonstrating its efectiveness in studying unguided interactions in public places, while supplementing and adding to the existing knowledge base of service robots in public places.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction
Issue number1
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Association for Computing Machinery.


  • Interaction breakdowns
  • Robots in public places
  • Service robots
  • Unguided interactions
  • digital ethnography


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