Historically, robots have been primarily designed by engineers, with social scientists testing their ability to interact with humans after the fact. This design process traditionally prioritizes solving technical issues first, and then designing the robot’s appearance and behaviour to suit its function.
The traditional approach to building robots involves starting with a mobile platform and then adding necessary sensors and actuators, often resulting in a bulky and unattractive appearance. This approach is referred to as the “Frankenstein approach” because it involves piecing together technology to achieve specific robotic functions without considering the social context of use. In contrast, a more holistic approach to robot design begins by considering the intended users, location, and purpose, which then informs the design of specific robot features such as appearance, interaction modes, and autonomy. This approach is called the “outside-in” mode of developing robots, where the interaction expected of the robot determines its outside shape and behaviours. Designers with expertise in multiple disciplines, such as creating aesthetic designs and thought-provoking robots, play an important role in this process. The design of robots with embodied interactive capabilities requires collaboration among designers, social scientists, engineers, and computer scientists to identify how specific design ideas can be realistically implemented in working technology. HRI design can involve designing new robot prototypes or adapting existing ones for particular applications. The development of HRI design both builds on existing design methods and develops new concepts and methods specifically suited for embodied interactive artifacts.
Bartneck, C. et al. (2020) Human-Robot Interaction: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108676649.