Service Robots and Human-Robot Interaction - The Past, Present and Future: An Interdisciplinary Systematic Scoping Review
Services are increasingly shaped by the adoption of automation, virtual agents, artificial intelligence, and service robots signalling the era of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) in service (Hollebeek et al., 2017). Service researchers have acknowledged that our current understanding of service robots and HRI in service is still in its infancy and that knowledge is fragmented with various terms, definitions, approaches and theories being discussed (van Doorn et al., 2017; Wirtz et al., 2018). The purpose of this paper is to explore what we know and do not know regarding service robots/HRI in service, untangle and unify our understanding of HRI/service robots, and present a comprehensive research agenda.
The research design employed in this paper is an interdisciplinary Systematic Scoping Review (SSR) pertaining to service robots and HRI in the context of service, including, and not limited to, a review of academic peer-reviewed literature in business, information systems, robotics, engineering, health, psychology and social sciences. The SSR methodology utilizes the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines (Moher et al., 2015; Peters et al., 2015). A transparent and replicable predetermined search plan with clear inclusion/exclusion criteria identified articles and conference proceedings. A two-stage selection process (conducted by two independent reviewers) ensures interrater reliability, screening 1487 publications by title and abstract, and 266 publications by full-text, resulting in a final sample of 95 publications.
The SSR indicates that the field of service robots/HRI is not theory driven with the majority of studies lacking a theoretical framework or lens. Inductive thematic analysis uncovers emerging themes from the SSR and informs a model of service robots/HRI in service. This model highlights that HRI in service is increasingly impacting a wider variety of service settings including tourism, hospitality, retail, frontline service, elderly care, healthcare and education as well as a variety of consumer-based outcomes including service attractiveness, consumer perception, acceptance, engagement and satisfaction at various points.
This paper constitutes three main contributions. It unifies the current fragmented terminology and knowledge of HRI/service robots in service by clarifying the working definitions, conceptual boundaries and methodologies used to understand service robots/HRI in service through an extensive review and synthesis of 20 years of interdisciplinary literature. It develops a model of evolution of service robots/HRI in service, questioning what the future holds and what implications and impacts this evolution will have for service. It proposes a clear research agenda for future service robot/HRI research.
This paper helps service researchers, managers, organizations, policy-makers and roboticists to better understand how social robots and HRI are impacting service and urges all stakeholders to consider such implications in their ventures.