<< This is a guest post written by Annapaola Vacanti, who’s previously been featured in our blog with her work done at frameopensource.org >>
Robotics Need Design, And Design Needs Participation!
Working as designers, we are daily forced to face new exciting projects that pose unprecedented challenges to the way we approach the design process.
The experience of our POS3D workshop began a few months ago, when me and my colleagues – we are three PhD students studying at DAD (Architecture and Design department of the University of Genoa, Italy), directed by our professor Niccolò Casiddu – decided to take on the challenge of developing a project for the European Edition of Maker Faire, a huge event held in Rome between 18th and 20th October.
As we were brainstorming ideas, we managed to put together our different areas of expertise and merge our interests into the project of a workshop revolving around the design of a humanoid robot, whose body is fully 3D printable. We based our design on the robot Poppy, which is the result of Matthieu Lapeyre PhD thesis, published as a fully open source project in 2012.
Starting from the existing 3D models, we worked on Grasshopper to create a definition that allows to modify Poppy’s arms and legs appearance using texture mapping, plus of course choosing the colors of all his body parts and the expression of his eyes.
Once we had our definition, we 3D printed all the body parts of our robot in PLA and were ready to head off to Rome. The goal of the workshop was to create an interactive online/offline experience, where visitors could design their personal robot with us using ShapeDiver’s interface, then see pieces being printed and assembled live.
Through this process we have been able to interact with a huge number of visitors of all ages and understand their perceptions and expectations regarding the near possibility that humanoid robots will soon be a major part of our lives. When asked the question if they preferred to design a robot to assist elderly people, a robot for kids to play with or an evil one, most users were fully engaged in the activity and took the task very seriously, allowing us to collect several iterations of our design and many insights and data for our research.
The informality of the situation and the easiness of interaction with the model have been instrumental to the involvement of visitors. We came home from these exciting three days with a strong will to further develop our project and keep researching and working at the intersection of new computational technologies, human-robot interaction and digital manufacturing; the main accomplishment of Maker Faire experience for us has been to confirm that our multidisciplinary and curious approach to the current trends in design, IT and innovation will lead us to new uncharted territories that we are eager to explore.
<<Annapaola Vacanti is an Italian designer and PhD student in Genoa, interested in computational design and working with data. She created the POS3D project with Francesco Burlando and Xavier Ferrari Tumay, both designer and PhD students at the University of Genoa, respectively working on human-robot interaction and systemic design.>>