Empathy Objects are peripheral robotic conversation companions designed to support human-human interactions. The first robot we designed was Kip1. The robot was designed to measure aggressiveness in a conversation, and to react it simple gestures—if the conversation is calm, Kip1 is interested, but if the conversation becomes aggressive, Kip1 gets scared.

  • Role: Research Assistant
  • Responsibilities: Designing experimental procedures, conducting laboratory studies, paper writing, team coordination, assembling robots.
  • Team Members: Dr. Guy Hoffman, Dr. Oren Zuckerman, Almog Ben-David, Ofri Omer, Shlomi Azoulai

Design Process

When designing Kip1 we used sketches, animations, and 3D renders to determine the robot’s morphology and movement space.

We wanted to create a “creature like” robot, and used these methods not only to design how the robot would look like, but also how it would move.

Assembly

The final model of Kip1 is a two DoF robot with an exposed mechanical structure, a paper head and a sewing thread as a backbone. We tried to create a fragile-looking robot that would evoke empathy using simple gestures. Here is how we assembled it:

Evaluation

To evaluate our design, we wanted to see if we succeeded in our two design goals: Kip1 being peripheral and evocative. We conducted a laboratory experiment with couples and asked them to talk about a topic of disagreement.

Results

Peripheral – We found the robot caught the participants attention but did not interfere with the natural conversation flow

Evocative – We found the participants perceived the robot in the experimental group as friendly and similar to them. This supported our goal for Kip1 to evoke empathy.

Read all about our study here.

We wanted to explore what other conversation interactions Empathy Objects can support. We conducted a second experiment, this time in attempt to create a conversation balanced in duration. We aimed for the robot to signal the participants when the conversation is out of balance, and to encourage the less dominant participant to speak up.

We are now analyzing the results of the recent study, stay tuned…