We all have a need to balance our time between being together and being alone. Technology influences our ability to keep this balance. What happens if we make our own social technologies such as robots and let this help around times of feeling more disconnected? What do we learn about our social needs and our use of technology? 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
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 to create an IoT network of our robots. With a button and led lights we signaled to eachother if we were there or not. 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.
From our journal writings we made or own written story. Here I tell my experience of making and living with the robot. 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. It had a smile on my face when the robot spontaneously started waving at me and became happier.
The community platform shares our stories, insights and instructions for others to be inspired by. And a forum to support these makers and encourage a community of social robot makers to grow.
And also the instructions how to get started yourself with ordering the kit, downloading the code and start making the robot. And thereby learn about your own social needs and the influence of technology.
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.
Also during our own 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!