Robots For Creative Industry (Robots for All)

Hey Interaction designers!

I am about to develop this idea that excited me a lot: making accessible robotic software development to designers and artists in an easy way.

So basically to have a very easy interface for developing robotic applications accessible to non-expert or not-super geeks. :smiley:

In this way an artist or designer could create easily a robotic art installation or robotics application.

I come from the robotics geek world so I have no idea (that’s why I’m asking here) if this could be interesting to designers… or totally bullshit. In this case I would like to not loose my time in something useless.

Did you ever use robots?

Would it be interesting for a designer to have this tool or it is OK that geeks support designers’ ideas? Please I need to know! :slight_smile:

How many times happened to you that being supported by a robotic geek was not the best? (I am a robotic geek so the others “general” geeks are not interesting to me).

Thank you so much!Any hint or suggestion it is highly appreciated!

Hi Gabriela!
I see potential in robots for designers, and the geek factor can be nice.
There is definitely a need for easier programming though I would also like to have the option to have full access to the code so there would have to be a layered interface architecture. As a designer with a background in interactive products I already have experience with building and programming robots - robotic lamps, BEAM robots and uC based robots programmed with Arduino+Processing, C++, analog circuits or Max/MSP.

I also experienced robots with speech and emotional expression, like QRIO, eMuu and iCat, as this was an active research topic in our faculty.
I would want to, besides accessing hard code and an app, be able to program the robot through movement - either teaching behavior by having it mimic my own body or by moving its extremities and, like a MIDI sequencer, compose its behavior. Also its body should be modular so I could easily build different morphologies.

If I would use a robot would depend on its price and functionality. Some of my ideas:

  • a robotic desk light with integrated web cam so it can track and follow my hands. This would be nice for creating videos of me working on sketches / tinkering to send to clients for either presentation or work logging.
  • a robotic pet or walking art piece. I would appreciate if it could teach itself behavior targeted towards a goal as well such as seeking out the lightest areas in the home to charge batteries, developing its own intelligent behavior Karl Sims style.
  • A robot/virtual assistant that handles the scanning and documenting of my sketches and notes, automatically adjusting contrast, recognizing my hand writing etc. and a piece of software to store and catalog all my sketches.
  • A robot that I put on the coffee table to translate to me when people are speaking different languages or even just pick up words and output them on a simple display so I can follow something. It would be a nice feature if it could also store a to-do list and randomly ask whether or not you already did certain tasks, another feature could be that it stimulates creativity by randomly uttering sentences like ‘what if you would combine a solar panel (x) and a piggy bank (y)?’
  • A robot in the car that dispenses mints/sweets/drinks and does tasks like holding your parking tickets.

Hello!!! I am an Accounting student that love to do handcrafts and knitting. I will love to be able to have a simple app that helps me expand my knowledge into that subject. I love the idea of making robotics more accesible to the public suggested before. But you also need to watch out. Robotic geeks are required in the world of robotics and you cannot be replaced by programing but it is a great idea. Please say if you get to plan it. It could be use all around the world… this is super interesting.

First, I’d like to say that I love any and all ideas that make technology more available and approachable to non-experts. So, my direct answer to your question of “will this be interesting to designers?” is an emphatic, “YES!”

However, this is not a new idea. There are tons of systems/products on the market that provide a way for non-experts to add computer controlled devices to their projects. There are even levels of difficulty within this type of products, from toys aimed at children (Little Bits and Lego Mindstorms) to more complex systems aimed at amateurs (Arduino & Raspberry Pi) to higher complexity systems/software aimed at professionals (LabVIEW). If a designer dreams up some kind of product or interface that would require robotics to execute, they can turn to one of these systems to try to make their design come to life.

The key to designing something like a “very easy interface for developing robotic applications” is finding the balance between simplicity and functionality. In order to simplify the system, you are going to have to take out (or hide) some of the functionality. But by limiting the functionality, you are limiting the types of projects that it can be used for. As soon as the designer dreams up something that has more rigorous requirements, they can no longer use the simple system and have to either become the “robotics geek” by learning about the more complex hardware/software or hire one to do it for them.

For example, I am a designer & mechanical engineer, and I have done a few projects using Arduino boards to create custom interfaces. The Arduino platform is great, because as a beginner, it is very easy to go and buy a servo motor and download a sketch that controls it. Then you can go buy a rangefinding sensor and copy and paste the sketch that allows you to read in sensor data. However, now you need your servo motor to perform specific actions in reaction to the data that your rangefinder is providing, but you can’t find a sketch that does exactly what you’re looking for. Now you have to dig a bit deeper and learn more about the hardware/software to achieve your desired result. You can quickly get sucked into a black hole of internet research to try and learn enough to accomplish your goal. By the time you’re done, however, you are now effectively a robotics geek compared to your former self. I think few designers would tell you that they’re simply not interested in learning about the technology. They probably just don’t have enough time to devote to learning about the technology, so it is much easier to work with someone else who already has the knowledge.

My advice would be to think very carefully about who will be using this interface and how they might want to use it. Then think about how a beginner might use the system, and how they might want to push the boundaries of the system once they have mastered the simple functionality. Creating a system that the user can grow and learn with will be the key to whether your interface is successful or not. Good luck!