BlockBot - platform for human-robot interaction research (2020)
high and medium density fiberwood, e-paper display, Arduino, real-time clock

The presence of robots in a human-inhabited environment provides an exciting new frontier in the research of human-robot interaction. While there is ample research done in a laboratory setting, how humans make sense cohabiting with these ontological ambiguous creatures is not yet fully understood. How does the perception of robots shift from an object to an artificial creature that people are disposed to socially interact with?

Could a human's perception of a robot as a social agent - and possible subsequent attachment - arise from the presence of a robot in a human-inhabited environment in itself and not be solely reliant on the robot's life-like appearance or behavior?

We designed and deployed the BlockBot - a small cube-shaped robotic artifact with an open-ended purpose - to explore this question. We deployed the BlockBot unsupervised into a domestic setting, we aim to explore how people make sense of, interact with and potentially bond with this ambiguous artificial creature.

Currently, two BlockBots are still operating as figurative ‘probes’ into human-inhabited environments. We are excited to follow their journey, what data they will generate, where they will go, what activities they will be part of and what attributions will be made along the way.

The BlockBots were part of a master thesis for the MSc program Media Technology, which was supervised by Dr. Peter van der Putten, assistant professor at LIACS Leiden University, and Dr. Kate Darling from the MIT Media Lab.