Project EMAR

May 21, 2019

Sharing Robot Activities at the Tacoma-South Sound Mini Maker Faire


Blog post written by Christina Nelson and Meredith Fife

This quarter, our team was excited to create a series of design activities on Project EMAR to share with members of the public at the first Tacoma-South Sound Mini Maker Faire. The Maker Faire was an interactive workshop held on the UW Tacoma campus where community members could attend interactive workshops exploring STEM-related topics.

Sharing activities with the public

Our team set up our workshop in the Makerspace at UW Tacoma, thanks to the Global Innovation & Design Lab. At the event, our team guided visitors through four activities exploring social robots and teen stress. Our workshop included the following stations:

  • Meeting EMAR and designing robot faces: visitors interacted with a prototype of EMAR V4 and experimented with designing a new pair of eyes for it
  • Creating user-generated personas: visitors created collages of what stress looks like using images they cut-out from magazines
  • A storyboarding activity: visitors sketched how they envisioned EMAR helping a stressed teen feel better, and created a social robot prototype using Play-Doh
  • Exploring robot voices: visitors voted on their favorite voice for EMAR before creating their own robot voice

Introducing EMAR and designing robot eyes

At the first station, we briefly introduced visitors to the current prototype of EMAR V4 and explained that EMAR would measure and address teen stress in a public high school environment. Once we had introduced visitors to  EMAR, we then invited them to design a new face for for EMAR on a laptop.

A visitor uses a laptop to design a robot face

Figure 1: A visitor designing EMAR’s eyes

User-generated personas

At the second station, visitors explored what stress looked like on them and those around them by creating user-generated personas. Personas are a popular technique used in user experience to embody a specific group of users sharing commonalities when interacting with a product by using a fictional portrait. User-created personas take a different approach than personas because they ask users to develop and create the personas, rather than having a research team collect data and develop the personas. This activity was modeled after our previous workshop with the Girls Who Code in which we encouraged visitors to create collages of images that represented stress.

A visitor interacts with a team member to create a collage

Figure 2: Isaiah Thao helps a visitor locate magazine images of stress

At the Maker Faire, we asked each visitor to create a collage of what stress looked like on themselves and their friends using images they found in magazines. The visitors recalled the physical and behavioral characteristics that they noticed when they experienced stress in their own lives, describing feelings of fear, apprehension, and anxiety.

Visitors using glue and scissors to create their collage

Figure 3: Visitors locating magazine images that reminded them of stress to create their collages

After each visitor had completed their collage, they shared the rationale behind the images they selected to represent stress. Two teens expressed feeling stressed out over the future of the country from things they had witnessed on the news. The teens demonstrated this fear in their collage by pasting pictures of men with rifles as well as pictures of war. Another teen expressed having no place to hide or a place to be alone. The teen selected pictures of people hiding their faces to express her feelings of stress.

A collage depicts images of a man holding a gun, a tombstone, and surgery

Figure 4: A persona created by a teen conveys fear through pictures of violence

Some adults used the station to express the current stress they were experiencing in their lives, while other adults tried to recall the stress they felt as a teen. The adults who expressed their current pain chose images that conveyed sleep deprivation and anxiety at work, while the adults who represented how they felt during their teenage years represented feelings of tiredness, loneliness, and depressed feelings. The adults remembered what they felt as teenagers, but had a hard time identifying what specifically caused their stress during this time in their lives.

A collage depicts pictures of a restless woman in bed, a woman with her hand over her heart, and a quote on divorce

Figure 5: A persona created by an adult visitor represents stress causing feelings of depression, tiredness, and loneliness

Storyboarding and designing social robots

We also invited visitors to create storyboards of how they envisioned a social robot working in a high school to address teen stress. Visitors were invited to use colored pencils and crayons to draw how they imaged a stressed teen interacting with a social robot, and the potential features a social robot might have to help a stressed teen feel better.

Although some visitors enjoyed sketching their designs, many of the visitors began by building their social robot prototypes out of Play-Doh. The visitors took containers of Play-Doh and designed miniature social robot prototypes, incorporating features they imagined would be stress relieving for teens. The social robots visitors designed ranged from animals including a turtle and a dog, to a brightly colored mermaid.

Three social robot prototypes designed using Play-Doh

Figure 6: Social robots designed by visitors

Creating robot voices

At the robot voice station, visitors were first invited to listen to three different voices created by members of our team at UW Seattle. After each visitor had listened to the three robot voices, they were then asked to vote on their favorite voice. At the end of the event, our team tallied visitors’ vote finding that the voice we created that resembles EMAR V2’s voice was visitors’ favorite. Listen to the favorite voice chosen by visitors at the Maker Faire:

Once visitors had voted on their favorite robot voice, they then began thinking about what a social robot might say to stressed teens to help them feel better. Visitors jotted down words and phrases that they could imagine a social robot saying to help reduce stress, sharing that a social robot might tell a joke or make a sound that would resemble the “cooing” sound of a baby.

 A visitor uses a cell phone to record their voice

Figure 7: A visitor uses Voice Changer Plus to customize their own social robot voice

After considering what robot might say to make stressed teens feel better, the visitors used their scripts as a reference to record and edit a new voice on a mobile phone using the application Voice Changer Plus. Visitors experimented with the audio filters available, using filters including “mosquito,” “robot,” and “helium” to alter the tone of their voice.

Moving forward

Our team enjoyed sharing Project EMAR with community members at the Maker Faire! We are still so impressed by the incredible social robot prototypes, voices, personas and storyboards that visitors created at the event. We are looking forward to sharing design activities at additional community events in the future! Thanks to the Global Innovation & Design Lab and the Tacoma-Sound Sound Mini Maker Faire for hosting Project EMAR.