Enabling Impromptu Interaction Through a Robotic Water Cooler

From The Theme
CONTEXTUAL FUTURES FOR SMART PERSONAL DEVICES

WHAT IF?
What if ubiquitous wearable sensors and smart devices could continuously track, measure, and integrate diverse biometric, physiological, emotional states and provide feedback to augment global team interaction, improve team dynamics, and unlock new team potential?



WHAT WE SET OUT TO DO
This project aimed to develop a robotic water cooler to enable socially evocative behaviors in work environments. Researchers applied a human-centric, iterative design process to assess the contextual opportunities and challenges associated with the design task, and built multiple mock-ups and various features.

WHAT WE FOUND
The finished robotic water cooler platform, CoolerBot, has the ability to move smoothly around an office environment with a full tank of water on it. It features onboard cameras and a microphone to enable remote audio-visual observation and data capture. It can be remotely controlled over WiFi by a remote operator to simulate autonomous behavior for experiments. It employs Bluetooth-based localization to figure out where coworkers are in the building, and broadcasts its location to office denizens using a Slack chatbot, enabling them to interact with it both in person and online. CoolerBot has the ability to generate speech and robot sounds, as well as liquidy gurgling. Finally, it is able to actually dispense water to passersby.

LEARN MORE
mediaX Research Update, Fall 2016

Designing the Behavior of Interactive Objects, ACM 2016

PEOPLE BEHIND THE PROJECT
Larry Leifer is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University and Director of the Center for Design Research. Dr. Leifer’s engineering design thinking research is focused on instrumenting design teams to understand, support, and improve design practice and theory. Specific issues include: design-team research methodology, global team dynamics, innovation leadership, interaction design, design-for-wellbeing, and adaptive mechatronic systems.

Wendy Ju is the Executive Director of Interaction Design Research at the Center for Design Research (CDR). The CDR is a community of scholars focused on understanding and augmenting engineering design innovation practice and education. Dr. Ju’s research in the areas of physical interaction design and ubiquitous computing investigates how implicit interactions can enable novel and natural interfaces through the intentional management of attention and initiative.

David Sirkin is a Research Associate at Stanford University's Center for Design Research, where he focuses on design methodology, as well as the design of physical interactions between humans and robots, and autonomous vehicles and their interfaces. He is also a Lecturer in Electrical Engineering, where he teaches interactive device design. David frequently collaborates with, and consults for, local Silicon Valley and global technology companies including Siemens, SAP and Microsoft Research.

Xiao Ge is a PhD Student, Design Research, Mechanical Engineering. She describes a project's design process as to explore through ambiguity. Exploring is fun. And ambiguity is challenging. Her vertical focuses are in Design Methodology, Innovation Training/coaching as well as Mechanical Engineering while her horizontal skills range from planting, sewing, nature, mechatronics, programming, cooking, sketching, reading, sports (tennis and martial arts), cats and dogs, and volunteering.

TAGS
Collaboration, Communication, Computation, Data Analytics, Engagement, Feedback, Interaction, Machine Learning, Mobile, Productivity, Robotics, Sensors, Smart Devices, Technology