Automation is said to be on its way and we increasingly see news about robots taking over service in restaurants & hotels, deliver food or take on security on university campuses. Robots like this move in the public space and have to both interact with the people involved in their main tasks as well as bystanders, curious passers-by and others. But these instances are relatively rare and we are not yet used to these types of interventions.
In this project we will explore how people respond when they interact with robots “in the wild”, i.e. outside, in shops, parks and other environments. The focus is not on the development of robots, but on creative exploration of the design space. Methods could include:
- Speculative Design: Building artefacts that are not necessarily functional, but tell a story through which we can ask questions about emerging technologies before they even exist. How could speculation be useful in the field of robotics beyond the (mostly dystopian or utopian) examples of sci-fi movies, but rather in an embodied, everyday situation?
- Technology Probes: What might it be like to engage with a robot in the wild? What better way to find out than to deploy one (functional, partly functional or completely Wizard of Oz). Probes are design artefacts that live with people for a while, to explore how they might affect people’s life and how they are conceptualized. Using this approach, you could consider various form factors or means of interacting and focus on means to build and test those.
The project is highly open and exploratory but it is expected that it will lead to a (conceptual) prototype in addition to the study results. In this project, you will get hands-on insights into creative research and ideation methods, working in an exciting fast-moving technology field. You will further engage critically with existing technologies and future visions by considering their mundane consequences as well as their wider societal consequences.
Participants should have basic knowledge or experience of user-centered methods (user studies, interviewing etc.) and ideally some experience in prototyping techniques. Depending on the students’ interests, working with micro-controllers such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or basic robotic kits might be an option and support will be given if needed. In addition, all participants should enjoy working in an interdisciplinary team, want to be creative and be able to converse in English.