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Concrete Wall

Chaolan Lin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego. She works with Dr. Adena Schachner, who directs the Mind and Development Lab in UC San Diego's Department of Psychology. Her studies focus on children's understanding of technology, such as video chat, augmented reality, and robots, and its impact on early social-cognitive development. She also explores how humans perceive musical robots, with a particular interest in mind perception.


Current Area of Emphasis (also in training)

Social Cognition, Cognitive Development, Mind Perception, Human-Robot Interaction 


Parental Acceptance of Children’s Storytelling Robots: A Projection of the Uncanny Valley of AI 

Lin, C., Šabanović, S., Dombrowski, L., Miller, A. D., Brady, E., & MacDorman, K. F.

Frontiers in Robotics and AI (2021)

Parent–child story time is an important ritual of contemporary parenting. Recently, robots with artificial intelligence (AI) have become common. Parental acceptance of children’s storytelling robots, however, has received scant attention. To address this, we conducted a qualitative study with 18 parents using the research technique design fiction. Overall, parents held mixed, though generally positive, attitudes toward children’s storytelling robots. In their estimation, these robots would outperform screen-based technologies for children’s story time. However, the robots’ potential to adapt and to express emotion caused some parents to feel ambivalent about the robots, which might hinder their adoption. We found three predictors of parental acceptance of these robots: context of use, perceived agency, and perceived intelligence. Parents’ speculation revealed an uncanny valley of AI: a nonlinear relation between the human likeness of the artificial agent’s mind and affinity for the agent. Finally, we consider the implications of children’s storytelling robots, including how they could enhance equity in children’s access to education, and propose directions for research on their design to benefit family well-being.


Parental Expectations, Concerns, and Acceptance of Storytelling Robots for Children

Lin, C., MacDorman, K., Šabanović, S., Miller, A. & Brady, E.

ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (2020)

Robots that tell children stories are becoming common. Given that the practice of parent-child storytelling is part of family culture, it is critical to investigate parental acceptance of storytelling robots. Drawing on technology acceptance models, the theory of planned behavior, and Bowen family systems theory, we conducted a mixed-methods study involving an online survey of 115 respondents and 18 in-person interviews. We aimed to propose a model of parental acceptance of storytelling robots contextualized in potential use case scenarios. Preliminary findings indicate an overall positive attitude towards children's storytelling robots and identify factors that can affect parental acceptance of these robots. This study may inform the design of storytelling robots tailored to the needs of parents and their children in the home.


Itchy, Scratchy: A Musical Robot for Low-Income Kid's Piano Practicing 

Jig, K., & Lin, C.

ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (2018)

With children in low-income backgrounds often struggling more academically than children in a financially higher bracket, musical training, such as learning piano, can be implemented to bridge this gap. Although non-profit organizations can offer free piano classes for children from low-income families, musical instruments are often unaffordable for them to continue practicing. We designed an inexpensive robot, Itchy, Scratchy, for children to practice piano in an out-of-class context. Our prototype evaluation indicated that Itchy, Scratchy could act as an economical, effective, and engaging musical instrument, which is important for closing the gap in musical education achievement between different socioeconomic backgrounds.

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Exploring affection-oriented virtual pet game design strategies in VR attachment, motivations and expectations of users of pet games 

Lin, C., Faas, T., & Brady, E.

IEEE Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII) (2017)

Pets in real life and pets in virtual worlds play two different roles in a human's life. To date, the relationships between humans and virtual pets, especially in virtual reality environments (VRE), remain uninvestigated and relatively unexploited in designing virtual pet games. This paper examines the perceptions, motivations and expectations of people who play games involving pets, and how emotional connection with real pets affect their expectation for pets in VREs. To investigate this, we analyzed data collected from (i) an online survey of 774 people and (ii) observations and interviews with 30 people who played VR pet games in a lab study. Differences in perception, motivation and expectation in virtual reality pet games were found between players who have pets or do not. These findings deepen our understanding of the formation of emotion connections in VREs and provide a basis for studying individual differences in emotion in virtual pet games.

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Beyond cute: exploring user types and design opportunities of virtual reality pet games 

Lin, C., Faas, T., Dombrowski, L., & Brady, E.

ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (2017)

Virtual pet games, such as handheld games like Tamagotchi or video games like Petz, provide players with artificial pet companions or entertaining pet-raising simulations. Prior research has found that virtual pets have the potential to promote learning, collaboration, and empathy among users. While virtual reality (VR) has become an increasingly popular game medium, litle is known about users' expectations regarding game avatars, gameplay, and environments for VR-enabled pet games. We surveyed 780 respondents in an online survey and interviewed 30 participants to understand users' motivation, preferences, and game behavior in pet games played on various medium, and their expectations for VR pet games. Based on our findings, we generated three user types that reflect users' preferences and gameplay styles in VR pet games. We use these types to highlight key design opportunities and recommendations for VR pet games.


Self-Directed Learning in Teacher-Lead Minecraft Classrooms

Faas, T., & Lin, C.

ACM CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2017)

Minecraft, an online multi-player sandbox video game, is now being used as a teaching tool for course subjects ranging from digital literature to computer science. To understand how Minecraft was being adopted as a classroom tool, we interviewed 16 teachers and 10 students who had used Minecraft inside a classroom setting. Analysis revealed three key ways in which Minecraft enables and motivates students to work towards their own learning goals: the ability to customize context, live through stories, and assume roles in the virtual world. Drawing from these themes we propose a set of design recommendations for online informal learning spaces.

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