Jurrian Tjeenk Willink
Embodying Empathic Expressiveness
Eindhoven University of Technology – Industrial Design, Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Embodying Empathic Expressiveness
Embodying Empathic Expressiveness
The project explores a new, more natural interaction approach for humans relating to interactive intelligent objects, such as a household robot. The framework builds a dialogue between human and machines, which emerges through body language, movement and the empathic bodily reaction that we humans possess. The emphasis on the use of human sensorimotor skills creates a more rich and intuitive manner of communication. The richness of the expressed intent with a certain task can provide addition social cues in how a task should be performed. The proposed interface supports the dialogue between user and system by physically displaying the richness.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The current approach to human - computer interaction leaves no room for subtlety, expression and richness that we enjoy in our daily lives. We are held back in our desire to express ourselves in a natural human way by the limited input capabilities of devices. Most interaction paradigms completely disregard our physicality and us being social beings in a complex social network. Instead of helping us, the technology is dumbing us down to typing and swiping entities. Interaction design is mostly focused on the gathering of input with a technological mindset. When confronted with a complex task, the cognitive load that is necessary to communicate the task exponentially rises with the complexity.
The idea is to explore new ways of relating to intelligent machines with a human centered mindset by focusing on our empathic and sensorimotor skills. Thus exploring how humans with sensorimotor skills, can use their bodily potential, instead of only focusing on their cognitive abilities.
The entire project was self-initiated as a master thesis. During the process, the project grew, as it became a coherent story. The initial goal of exploring a more phenomenological kinesthetic approach to interaction with interactive intelligent objects was continuously expanded.
Intelligent machines, such as household robot, can be provided with information to perform a task. However, they do not have a method of relating to the complex social context that comes with the tasks they have to perform. On the other hand they are more knowledgeable about some subjects as they are connected to various information sources. This tension serves as a basis to explore and develop a more human kind of relationship with the robot or computer. The balance between desire and opportunity creates a need for the proposed richness in our communication with robots. As humans we have a certain intention with the task, influenced by the social context, but the robots have to consider all mechanical factors and other possible conflicts steering the performance of the task intended. Thus providing the user with immediate feedback of feasibility when given a command.
The project research is based on a wide range of research fields. Without the knowledge of notions such as phenomenology and Laban Movement Analysis and Five Factor Model, there wouldn’t be a project. This broad spectrum of knowledge provided for the research process using different media to grow and reflect. As the project was part of a masters study the basis of the research were scientific studies, done in the fields of human - computer interaction, human - robot interaction and more general philosophy, physiology, sociology, psychology, engineering and dance theory. Next to reading papers and books, making models, dancing, filming and creating graphics were part of the process of exploration. Several dance sessions were held to explore the richness of movement and iterate on the movement scenarios of the different characters of the interface. Film was used to capture both movement and mood, as they are both hard to describe with other media. The early stages of the films were more inspirational, like a small experiment and as a mood board. Later on in the project film was used to record dance routines and scenarios and graphics were used to showcase frameworks and different scenarios and serve as a discussion tool, as they make complex matters more insightful. By making different kinds of models the project also researched the physical and technological aspects of the eventual interface. A large part of this was building a physical platform for interaction that was flexible enough and had enough expressive capabilities to match the intended expressive meaning of the movement. Over 50 different models were made with ranging, from low fidelity to high fidelity. On the low end wireframe and cardboard were use and on the high end laser cut fully working Plexiglas and mechatronic models were used.
The audience of the project is people that regularly interact with advanced robotic technology, such as elderly who use a robot as a home care senior assist. The aim is to lower the threshold of interaction with a robotic care assistant, which can change the quality of life by improving their mobility in- and outside the house.
The most likely scenario is that the robots and the interface will be supplied with aid of a healthcare insurer and possibly some sort of time-share construction, like care assistants today, or with the supervision of a care assistant.
The main value of the project is the paradigm switch of interacting with technology as a whole and transforming it into a truly human centered approach. Technology changes to adapt to human interaction instead of vice versa. Not only mentally adapting, but also physically to match our true potential as a social being. This will have profound socio-cultural impact as it transforms our understanding of what technology is and can do, but also puts more emphasis on our kinesthetic abilities instead of our cognitive abilities within society. Thus breaking with the tradition of technology being a cognitive matter. The technology can become truly invisible and becomes more intuitive. Technology as less of a tool in the classical sense of the word, but more like the phenomenological sense, an extension of the self. Also by lowering the cognitive threshold to interface with advanced technology in a meaningful manner, technology becomes more inclusive and will be able to benefit more people. By no longer emphasizing on people’s cognitive abilities, more people can understand and use powerful technologies to aid them in their daily lives and strengthen them in performing tasks that otherwise would exclude them from society. I think the true impact of the project could be enormous, but this is just a small exploration, a vigorous brainwave.