How to create an anti-bullying robotic | University of Waterloo Journal

Children who have been bullied or have witnessed a close friend currently being bullied typically suffer in silence, not recognizing how to course of action their traumatic encounters or reply to bullying in the long run. 

Elaheh (Ellie) Sanoubari (PhD in development) wants to improve that by working with social robots and video games to assist small children fully grasp bullying and create abilities to intervene. 

“You cannot set two children collectively and talk to them to job-perform bullying. It could end terribly,” mentioned Sanoubari, a PhD college student in the Department of Techniques Design and style Engineering. “But we can use social robots as a proxy for part-actively playing so kids can control their behaviours and practise intervention procedures in a harmless, personal and playful location.”  

Sanoubari is presently making a new drama-based mostly activity known as RE-Mind — Robots Empowering Minds. In this activity, a youngster can enjoy a bullying-similar scenario performed out by robots and enact in the role perform by controlling a bystander robot.  

Ellie Sanoubari (PhD in progress) 


Building meaning by drama 

This concept set the engineer on an not likely route to the College of Waterloo’s theatre and functionality plan. “I have always beloved theatre and drama. In several ways, robots remind me of that environment, specifically social robots since when you structure them to act out social human conversation, what you are primarily executing is creating a efficiency with the robot,” she reported. 

Sanoubari’s supervisor is Kerstin Dautenhahn, director of the Social and Intelligent Robotics Research Laboratory and Canada 150 Investigation Chair in Clever Robotics. Dautenhahn instructed that Sanoubari deliver in an utilized theatre expert to help her function and launched her to Professor Andrew (Andy) Houston from the Faculty of Arts. 

Utilized theatre is the exercise of making use of drama techniques to evoke reflection and discovering in buy to provide about social modify. “I experienced never ever heard of applied theatre prior to talking with Andy, and this new thought was a wonderland for me. I was observing how it all related to my do the job and it shaped my solution,” Sanoubari stated. 

Houston stated that “when we see anything enacted, and it influences us, it can alter our considering and what do we do with that practical experience.” This offers performers and the viewers an possibility to develop that means and knowing by way of a general performance or by re-enacting a state of affairs. 

Professor Andrew (Andy) Houston from the Faculty of Arts

Andy Houston
Faculty of Arts

Sanoubari, Houston and Dautenhahn devised an idea to have youngsters study bullying intervention strategies by job-taking part in with a robot who would be the bystander in a peer-bullying story. Houston additional, “We wanted to develop a protected distance for the young children … it is really hard to go again to a traumatic state of affairs. The robot creates that distance for the youngster.” 

In the course of the exploration they asked kids, with the assistance of their mother and father, to generate fictional robots them selves using materials all around their property. Sanoubari mentioned, “This was all performed to enable the youngsters build a perception of psychological possession with the characters that they had been setting up.” 


The group worked with each other to craft tales and eventualities that would prompt the small children as they interacted with their robotic character, but also enable the kids lead some of the storytelling and create fictional personalities for the characters. 

Sanoubari wanted to ensure her anti-bullying recreation captured the creativity and the rationale of the small children who would in the long run be the buyers of the activity. 

“It is critical to require the individuals making use of the know-how from the get-go and create it with them. We preferred to go to little ones and see how they imagine such a system.” 

Building interdisciplinary solutions 

As a theatre director and scholar, Houston and his operate could be seen as incredibly far eliminated from the earth of robotics, but he explained he is finding out a good deal from doing the job with Sanoubari and the Social and Smart Robotics Research Lab.  

“Ellie sees these re-enactments and storytelling from a pretty distinct point of view than I do. It’s like doing the job with an individual who speaks an fully distinct language,” he stated. “What I appreciate about collaborating with other people who occur from pretty diverse understandings of theatre is that they give me huge perception and knowledge into my practice and what we are building.”  

Sanoubari agreed, and that is in which robotics can master from applied theatre and acquire a lead part in building significant human-robot interactions. 

“My interests have always been incredibly dynamic,” she explained. “But what my perform in the Social and Intelligent Robotics Investigation Lab has taught me is to re-imagine challenges and that most difficulties in the earth call for developing interdisciplinary solutions.” 


This challenge is illustrated by Kathleen Fu (BAS ’17, MARCH ’20). Kathleen is a graduate of the University of Waterloo Faculty of Architecture, and her present work is intensely encouraged by her time studying architecture, town lifestyle and storytelling.