The robots are here. They’re scanning shelves at your local supermarket, delivering food, and even assisting nurses in the hospital. As the robots begin to infiltrate human spaces, questions remain for designers and engineers tasked with convincing people to view them as approachable and friendly, rather than ignoring or avoiding them?
Addressing the complexity of human-robot interaction was the goal of the designers behind a new robot at the central Oodi library in Helsinki, Finland. The library brought in the digital consultancy Futurice to help it to transform some of its existing robots—which help move books between floors—into ‘bots that could help librarians with other tasks. After interviewing several librarians, the Futurice team decided to reprogram the robots to perform a task that the humans universally hated: Showing customers where the fiction section is, or pointing them toward the bathrooms. It’s a simple task, but time-consuming. Perfect to hand off to a robot.
But there was a problem.
“As we were testing [the robot], people weren’t relating to it as a social object. Some children were jumping on top of it, impeding it doing its job,” says Minja Axelsson, a roboticist at Futurice who designed, coded, and tested the robot. People weren’t necessarily put off by the robot, but they certainly didn’t connect with it. The bot’s form—basically, a box on wheels—was simply too abstract for people to make sense of what it was and how they were supposed to interact with it…. To help people see the robot as a friendly helper, Futurice came up with a simple interface: Googly eyes.
Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.