Robot Theater: A Social Robot Design Workshop

On Friday 7th of November 2014, 15 students of the master track Integrated Product Design from Delft University of Technology were invited to participate in a workshop on social robot design. The students were enrolled in the Advanced Concept Design course, in which they designed social robots for one of the following public spaces: a hospital, a hotel, and a museum (a design brief set out by SELEMCA).

The workshop, designed by PhD candidates Wang Long Li and Robert A. Paauwe, focused on helping designers understand the complexity of human-robot interaction and to provide foothold into creating an internally consistent robot design.

The main activity of the workshop was to act out ideas and interactions in our Robot Theater. Robot Theater is a form of rapid prototyping that enables designers to sketch out their interactions quickly and be confronted with the complexity of social robots. Because of this complexity, Robert and Wang created a set of thinking tools to help designers deconstruct their ideas into bite-sized, structured elements. The tools supported the students in thinking about different emotional states, how the robot behaves over time, and how it is perceived by its user(s).

At the end of the day, most students radically altered their ideas based on the insights they gained from acting out their ideas in our Robot Theater. By being confronted with limitations of technology, the perception of user(s), and structurally thinking about social robots, most students progressed their ideas towards achievable and internally consistent social robots.

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Robert A. Paauwe