PI: Professor Mark Cutkosky
Distributed design teams face barriers to design thinking that current communication technologies have difficulty mediating. Contextual clues, rapid iteration of ideas and ease of direct physical interaction are often lost. We have developed and are introducing expressive communication robots into designers’ workflows to create more direct, engaging and productive exchanges.
We have found that exclusive presence, ease of engagement, implicit signaling, explicit signaling and the ability to effect action are key aspects of physically co-present interaction and have crucial impact on design collaboration. We propose to focus on employing communication robots with geographically distributed teams when design activity is most physical and tangible: during conceptual development, which occurs largely before ideas can be articulated, and prototype development, which generally occurs after the verbal or written exchange of ideas. We will continue to use a variety of research methods, including small-scale laboratory and field experiments, technology probes and sustained usage of communication robots in project-based settings.