Trust in robots explored at the National Robotarium for Edinburgh Science Festival



A blonde woman wearing a Viking hat and sunglasses stands smiling beside a humanoid robot
Guests got to join Pepper in a fun photo booth as part of the event

Selfies with robots, brain-controlled drones and a quadruped waiter were just some of the activities on display at Robots After Dark, a special evening event held on Saturday 15 April at the National Robotarium.

The leading robotics and AI research and engineering facility, which opened last year on Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, welcomed nearly 200 people to the sell-out event, which explored the relationship between humans and robots, and how to build trust in robotic and autonomous systems.

As well as hands-on activities, which also included a robot petting zoo, a live soft robotics battle, robot crafting, and live laser alignment in the £22.4m facility’s Precision Laser Applications lab, guests enjoyed talks from leading Heriot-Watt scientists and students. Professor in Developmental Psychology, Thusha Rajendran, spoke on humans’ cognitive ability to trust robots and AI, robotics CDT student Alexandre Colle shared insights into the use of design and aesthetics in robotics, and Assistant Professor in Computer Science, Dr Marta Romeo discussed her research into building trust with assistive technologies in social wellbeing and healthcare.

Dr Alistair McConnell, Assistant Professor in Computer Science and one of the event’s lead organisers said: “It was great to work with the amazing Edinburgh Science Festival team to create this unique experiential event at the National Robotarium and we were thrilled that so many people attended.

“Robotics and autonomous systems have huge potential to make people’s lives safer, more efficient and more productive, however adoption is only possible if the technology is developed with human usability, trust and safety at its core.

“As well as getting to hear interesting talks and meet some of our friendly robots, I hope that visitors have had a chance to consider how they feel about living in a more roboticised world.”

The adults-only event was organised by members of the Heriot-Watt University and National Robotarium engagement teams in collaboration with Edinburgh Science Festival as part of the two-week festival’s closing weekend. The ‘living laboratory’ event has attracted 1000s of visitors to celebrate and explore science, experimentation, and innovation from across the region.


Louise Jack | Research Communications Manager