Vyo is a home robot, a personal assistant serving as a centralized interface to smart home devices. The interaction with the robot is a combination of several paradigms, including the use of physical icons (“phicons”), expressive physical gestures and screen feedback. The project is a collaboration with the Korean telecom company.

We carried out several research studies that resulted in a microscope-like desktop device, with an expressive monocular rotating face and the use of physical objects to communicate with the robot.

Design Process

The design process followed a multi-channel design approach in which a number of the robot’s interrelated characteristics and features were explored in parallel.


The first channel of exploration followed a user-center design approach of define target users and scenarios.


The next channel was exploration of the robot’s morphology. We did this using an iterative approach to explore how the robot would look like, and how will it move. This included pencil sketches, 3D animation, and high detailed 3D renders.

We came up with two final directions, one robot closer to the idea of a social robot, while the other strongly influenced by consumer electronics.


We created several wooden models in the spirit of “rapid prototyping”, for both development purpose and to explore the movement with physical limitations taken into consideration.

Nonverbal Behavior

The final stage was conducting a series of studies to evaluate the robot’s morphology and to explore its nonverbal behavior.

We started with human-human improvisations with professional actors, asking the actors to act out the robot (a butler) and the user (a tenant). We observed the embodied improvisations searching for patterns in body language and behavior.

Then, we conducted human-robot improvisations using a wooden puppet prototype.


After designing the robot’s morphology and nonverbal behavior using the three parallel channels, we conducted a user study to evaluate our design.

Participants were asked to evaluate the robot size and movement using a “Personality Meter” that measured 5 qualities we wanted the robot to express. The participants were asked to interact with the robot and where interviewed throughout the interaction.

Final Prototype

The interdisciplinary nature of the project resulted in several novel design outcomes that were integrated into the final prototype, creating a robot on the spectrum between a microscopic device and a social agent. The final prototype includes several interaction paradigms, such as expressive gestures, screen feedback and tangible icons as a means of communication with the robot. The robot also includes a rotating monocular facial expression system and a spinning turntable at the robot’s base.

These interaction paradigms are synchronized and coordinated to define the robot’s nonverbal behavior and symbolic output modalities, creating a coherent human-robot experience.