I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.
I’m currently reading The Art of Innovation, in which the author discusses the significance of team shirts (making and/or wearing) to create a sense of belonging to a team. He goes on to explain that the impact of solid teamwork produces better results. After reading that I thought the t-shirt aspect was fun but a bit silly and non-essential. Isn’t it usually just natural group dynamics that drive a successful team?
Not long after reading about this idea, I had a lecture in my Introduction to Sociable Robots class that covered the topic of teamwork between humans and robots. Conducted studies revealed that when a team identity was created for a human-robot team through either wearing the same t-shirts or dressing alike, teammates think more highly of each other, have better co-operation, agree more, and value each other more. With this sense of team unity, teams are also able to complete a task better and faster.
It’s quite interesting then that something as simple as a team t-shirt can create such an impact.
My Introduction to Sociable Robots course is taught by Cory Kidd, an energetic lecturer from MIT’s Media Lab. It’s quite an enjoyable and interesting course so far, covering topics of psychology, sociology and HCI in the context of Human-Robot Interaction. During one class, we had fun watching a few videos of robot toys and discussed whether they were 1) sociable, 2) robots, and 3) fun. A quick survey from the class showed that everyone had different opinions about these factors, especially when evaluating the fun factor of the toy.
A sociable robot then is a robot that can communicate and engage with humans in a sociable way to fulfill a certain goal.
Although technology has come a long way to create impressive robots, some toys are too focused on technological features thus compromising the ease of interaction and play value. One example is the FemiSapien, which has many features such as learning dance moves, striking fashion poses, and delivering business cards, but to memorize the gesture sequences to activate a function (hand swipe, tilt head up/down, multiple hand presses, etc.) is cumbersome and not intuitive. RobotPanda, on the other hand, is a playful and enjoyable companion that can engage kids over a long period: with different modes available, the panda’s body parts light up to the touch, laughs when it’s flying, and can become a storyteller. It is easy to interact with this toy because it talks you through what parts of the body to touch to perform the various functions and access different modes.