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Authors: Sebastian, J.,Hsu, L.S.,Yeh-Liang Hsu (2016-01-24); Recommend: Yeh-Liang Hsu (2016-01-24).
Note: This paper was presented in Symposium on Engineering, Medicine and Biology Applications(SEMBA),Taoyuan, Tawain, 2016/01/22-24.

Implementation of robotic features to everyday objects for interaction with older adults



This paper proposes the possibility of adding robotic features to everyday objects, combining the techniques of classic animation and robotic design to create a new type of simple robots capable of interacting with older adults at home, denominated “caricature robots”.


Keywords: Interaction, caricature robots, robotic motion design


Introduction: Caricature Robots


From the appearance design, robots can be divided into humanoid robots and non-humanoid robots. A caricature robot can be described as “a non-humanoid robot that can show simplified humanoid motions in exaggerated ways.” To achieve that illusion, three key elements should be met in a caricature robot: functionality, simplicity in motion and personality, which we will expand later in this paper. While interaction for every older adult can be different, users are allowed to personalize their caricature robot by creating their own set of motions and personas that suits their personal needs. The MusicMouth project is used to exemplify caricature robots, more specifically this paper focuses on the robotic speaker named “Jimmy” [Figure 1]. Jimmy is a regular speaker with robotic features that allow a range of motions that accompany the sound received from an audio input. This way of simple expression serves as a simple physical representation of emotion transmitted through Jimmy.


Figure 1. Jimmy, the robotic speaker




Caricature robots, while being non complicated robots; they achieve interaction and can become part of households due to their unique characteristics, that do not rely on the esthetics only but on their core function and motion design to be able to express emotions through simple mechanisms. These key elements combined in a caricature robot are:


Functionality:This is the first element of a caricature robot, and it determines where and how a caricature robot is included in a household. For example, Jimmy’s core function is to function as a speaker and its inclusion in a household would be where a speaker is needed at.


Simplicity in motion: The mechanisms in a caricature added to the original function of the object allows robotic motions, which are expected to be simple but enough to generate expressive motions. This contrasts with most humanoid robots in which their sophisticated mechanism allow a very complete set of motions, caricature robots use a very small amount of degrees of freedom that to achieve expressive motions.

Personality: To achieve this illusion of expressive motion, a caricature robot depends on the personality given to it. This personality is based on the design of the robotic motions and their combinations. This motion design are fully based on principles of cartoon character design and animation used by animators and artists around the world. [Thomas, F. et al., 1995] which can be combined in a robotic body to achieve an almost life-like expression in a non-humanoid robot. These principles are:

·    Squash and stretch

·    Anticipation

·    Staging

·    Straight ahead and pose to pose animation

·    Follow through and overlapping action

·    Slow-out and slow-in

·    Arcs

·    Secondary Action

·    Timing

·    Exaggeration

·    Solid drawing

·    Appeal

Of all 12 principles above, the “solid drawing” principle is the only one that cannot be fully applied to a mechanical body yet can be used in the facial expression design.


Method, Materials and Concepts


Exploring the possibilities of allowing users to build their own robot, Jimmy has been fully 3d printed. [Figure 2] Jimmy offers a “snap, power and play” feature that opens the possibilities for anyone to have a robot at home and personalize it if desired.


jimmy explode

Figure 2. 3D printed parts to build the skeleton of Jimmy


Jimmy’s design allows users to take the pieces of the robot and build in a simple way or even adventure into customizing 3D files for 3D printing and modify to fit into their lifestyle or personal requirement. The different pieces in Jimmy contain magnetic an embedment that “snaps” all pieces into place. Jimmy does not require any special software to work neither requires special robotic knowledge to function, this is where the “power and play” characteristics of it comes into place.

Jimmy’s motion expression and adaptive robotic body is only possible through the “Body, Cerebellar and Brain” control structure [Figure 3]. That keep all sets and commands in a software level yet not on the hardware. Jimmy’s input can be provided by an audio source like an audio device or even a smart device. This input is controlled by the micro processing unit and executes the commands to control the servo and motor that give life to Jimmy.


Figure 3. Jimmy’s IT structure


 Caring for Older Adults


Jimmy’s IT structure allows it to have many usages and to be adaptive to the different needs that a caregiver might have. Figure 4 shows three possible scenarios in which Jimmy can be used in a house hold. While having a smart device connected to Jimmy, it can become a very simple alarm system and reminder for different users to aid them in their daily chores. This implicates that also important things like daily medication reminders and exercise times can be set up as part of the daily routine an older adult can have.

scenario 1

Figure 4. Basic scenario of Jimmy in a household


Jimmy opens the possibility for households that are far apart can have a physical way of interaction through a robotic body. This simplicity of usage, allows caregivers and family members to interact with older adults that live independently or in a nursing homes. Offering a frontal approach to aiding to the loneliness that many older adults manifest while living independently or in nursing homes [Kane, M. et al., 2013].




The application of robotic features to daily use objects opens the possibility of allowing the use of technology at homes without being intrusive or foreign to the household. Caricature robots open the gate to create simple robots that can have expressive motions and bring to life a daily use object, such is the case of Jimmy, the speaker with robotic features. This expressiveness is based on character design and animation principles used by artist all over the world. Jimmy’s design has focused in the ease of usage, by implementing a snap, power and play system. Jimmy’s body, cerebellar and brain control structure allows it to adapt better to a household and be controlled as needed by the user. By being not invasive or foreign to the household, this robotic features added to this daily use object, opened a broader way of usages to the same object. Caricature robots are aimed to aid and accompany older adults in their daily tasks, focusing in the “playfulness” and fun factor of having a robot at home.




[1]       Thomas, F., Johnston, O., & Frank. Thomas. (1995). The illusion of life: Disney animation (pp. 306-312). New York: Hyperion.

[2]       Kane, M., & Cook, L. (2013). Dementia 2013: The hidden voice of loneliness. Alzheimer’s Society, London.

[3]       Jenkins, C., & Smythe, A. (2013). Reflections on a visit to a dementia care village: Catharine Jenkins and Analisa Smythe discuss what the UK can learn from a Dutch model of care, where residents live in an environment carefully crafted to emulate their previous lifestyles. Nursing older people.

[4]       Yamane, K., Ariki, Y., & Hodgins, J. (2010, July). Animating non-humanoid characters with human motion data. In Proceedings of the 2010 ACM SIGGRAPH/Eurographics Symposium on Computer Animation (pp. 169-178). Eurographics Association.