user experience of materials for personal robots in a home environment

Project Materials for Robots

Role Research, Prototyping

Summary Physical touch is essential for the user experience of personal robots and is often times overlooked in research and product design. I explored the user experience of 3-D printed soft and hard materials for a personal robot through a scenario-based study. I conducted a study with 16 participants that included a questionnaire, scenarios of use involving physical touch of the robot with different materials and concluded with user interviews. Through qualitative and quantitative analysis of user responses, I found that because the user tended to characterize the robot as human-like, softer materials were favored over harder materials. However, context-dependent preferences showed an opportunity for mixed-material use. I summarized the results of the study in a paper with Professor Bilge Mutlu. Read the paper.

participant completing the study

An example of a participant interacting with the material parts and robot.

Scenarios of Use I chose five scenarios that represent typical user activities with the robot inside a home environment and created storyboards to help give context to the user. These included carrying the robot from one place to another, rotating the robot so that it would face the participant, gently pushing the robot away from the participant for privacy, hugging the robot, and dropping the robot.

storyboards of scenarios of use

Storyboards showing scenarios of use including pushing the robot and hugging the robot.

Materials and Testing The study focused on plastic materials that could be 3-D printed. Polyurethane was used to represent a structurally soft material, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene was used to represent a structurally hard material, and Silicone-coated Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene represents a hybrid. I used the material torso parts along with a complete 3-D printed robot, based on the HELLO ROBO platform.The material properties of all the materials were obtained through Dynamic Mechanical Analysis. These properties shape material behaviors such as the sound a material makes during impact or whether it bounces or fractures.

materials used in the study

This image shows the 3 materials used for the robot: Polyurethane (left), Silicone-coated Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (middle), and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (right).

a participant completing the study

A participant picking up the robot.