How can technology help people in creating and discovering their social pattern and needs that works best for them individually and highlight the importance of balancing social life and solitude?
Electronics & Arduino
Maart 2020 - June 2020
We all have a need to balance our time between being together and being alone. For every single person, the ideal balance is different. Technology influences our ability to keep this balance. What happens if we make our own social technologies? And let social robotics help around times of feeling more disconnected around Covid-19? What do we learn about our social needs and our use of technology?
We were asked to create one or more 'social robots' that operate in public space and invite people to interact with it and each other. We turned this is Connectek, where people create their own social robot and communicate with other people with their robot over distance. Show your personality in your robot, discover your social needs, and reflect on it.
Create one or more 'social robots' that operate in public space and invite people to interact with it and each other. To investigate these interactions between robots and humans, we made quick robot prototypes to test. We took into consideration the definition of what makes a social robot, namely having two-way interaction, having thoughts and feelings, aware of their social environment, and need to move independently and behave unpredictably. From these tests, we saw that it was really important to give clear affordances and functions and needs for others to interact with the robots.
Because the development of this project took place during Covid-19, we decided to use this situation to our advantage. With an auto-ethnographic research approach, we wanted to see how social robotic technology can help us in creating and discovering our social patterns and needs. We all started with a ‘basic kit’ of technology, a set of (personal) requirements to what's important to support our social need and with a basic setup to communicate over distance with a WiFi Arduino and MQTT broker. We created a journal format to log our processes of making, living and reflecting over a period of three weeks. Every day we discussed and compared our experiences, tinkering away and making adjustments to the hardware and software when necessary.
After this research phase was over, we started to design a ‘Social Robotics Kit’ that would allow other makers to get involved too. So they can order the kit, dowload the code, start building and learn about your own social needs and the influence of technology.
So your now able to make your robot, live with it and learn about yourself, the technology and your social need. I created Moti that was developed in such way to give me the feeling of someone saying they are there for me. When someone signals they are there and want to be together, the robot starts waving at me. The more people who want to be together the happier the facial expression of the robot becomes. While the casing of Moti is more static, the casing of Hedgehog is more expressive. It hides when it wants to be alone and it crawls out of its casing when it wants to be together. Reflecting over this period I learnt that it gave me a feeling of someone being there for me. I had a smile on my face when the robot spontaneously started waving at me and became happier.
Combined with this we made a community platform to share our stories, insights and instructions for others to be inspired by. And also the instructions how to get started your self with ordering the kit and making the robot. And a forum to support these makers and encourage a community of social robot makers/hackers to grow.
Service Blue Print
To get insights how other people would experience this process we did a co-design session with 5 people over Zoom. Here we saw that people enjoyed creating the robots. Also we got insights in how to improve the platform and instructions.
During our personal exploration we gained a lot of meaningful insights. We would like to invite others to join us in our exploration. Visit the website, download the code, get the materials and join the community!