exploring the relationship between robots, AI, and the future of intimacy in Japan and the UK


At the heart of Model Emotion is its ongoing research project MODEM, which explores social and technological transformations brought about by recent scientific advances in affective robotics and artificial emotional intelligence. MODEM explores these changes through ethnographic fieldwork on human-robot interaction, on laboratories creating emotion modeling software and algorithms for use in affect-sensitive robots and wearable technologies, and through collaborative design projects between anthropologists, computer scientists, and robotics engineers thinking about how to build systems sensitive to the varieties of emotional experience fostered through interactions between humans and other organic and artificial forms of life. Research is focused on Japan and the UK, with satellite and comparative research sites throughout Europe and North America


The project asks three primary research questions:

1. How do emerging affect-sensitive technologies feel and understand emotion, and in doing so generate new capacities for building bonds of intimacy and emotional wellbeing with human users?

2. How does the design of machine models for artificial emotional intelligence in robots generate experimental settings for collecting new kinds of data on affective wellbeing through human-robot relations?

3. What do technological understandings of emotional wellbeing and robot ethics teach us about the political economy of both interpersonal and interspecies care?


Through several years of ongoing comparative fieldwork across Japan, the UK, and elsewhere, the project aims to expand anthropological data on the varieties of emotional and affective experience newly engendered through evolving human-robot relations, while also creating platforms for comparative research into wellbeing by both humanities and hard-science researchers. For more on the project see the team’s publications and concepts pages.