Social robot kit to discover social patterns

How can technologie help people in creating and discovering their social pattern and needs that works best for them individual and highlight the importance of balancing social life and solitude?



Digital Prototyping, Design Research, Electronics & Arduino, Interaction design, Co-design


client: HvA Research


Jasper Bunschoten, Pamela Nelson, Veronika Radenkova

We all have a need to balance our time between being together and being alone. For each and 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 a time 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.


Social Robots discovery

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 in 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 independent and behave unpredicatably. 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.

Auto-ethnographic research

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.



Social Robotics Kit

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.

Social need robots

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.

Community Platform

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.


To get insights how other people would experience this process we did a co-design session with 5 people over Zoom.