Elly Konijn and Johan Hoorn are researching the social aspect of robots. Senior citizens and children with special needs are two important groups that are at the heart of research on robotics. For elderly people, robots can play a key role in reducing loneliness and feelings of depression. Besides that, robots can be helpful in improving social skills of autistic children or support hospitalized children.
Konijn and Hoorn are specifically interested in investigating the improvement of the social skills of robots. They do this by using Alice 2.0, a more developed version of robot Alice, who got worldwide recognition after being featured in the documentary Alice Cares, that received worldwide attention. One of the main focuses of research is on the possibilities of people developing a connection with a robot; one that goes beyond just interaction, and is actually about building a relationship. Does the robot ask fitting questions? Do people have the feeling that they are really understood by their robot buddy?