Project EMAR

July 8, 2019

Exploring Movement with Amy LaViers


Blog post written by Christina Nelson and Meredith Fife

On May 16, Amy LaViers hosted a workshop on the UW Seattle campus to explore greetings and goodbyes with the Project EMAR team. Amy LaViers is a Certified Movement Analyst and roboticist from the Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During this workshop, the Project EMAR team participated in a series of activities exploring human-robot interaction through movement to help us think about how we should design movement for EMAR.

Morning workshop: Introduction to movement 

Amy began our morning session with a group introduction to body movement. Our team gathered in a large circle, and each participant demonstrated a body movement that the team would be able to associate with their name. After every participant had performed their movement, Amy asked several participants to observe how others performed their intended movement and whether or not the movement looked identical from person-to-person. 

Emma Rose acts out greeting with robot

After getting to know each person in the room, Amy introduced several technical terms used to characterize different types of movement and shape and shape change. These techniques including:

  • space 
  • weight
  • time

This activity established the individual effort one may possess while greeting another person.  The group practiced introductions using shape and movement on both individual and group levels. The team practiced walking in with half movements, full movements or quarter movements.  Amy then introduced the robots into the interactions so that the team could see how we could accommodate these interactions with the robots. The idea behind this activity was to prepare the team with a baseline to begin exploring how EMAR might move when interacting with stressed teens.

Robot is being controlled by researchers

Researchers use greeting movement with Fetch

Afternoon workshop: Creative work group

During the afternoon session of our workshop, Amy led our team through a series of activities exploring how EMAR might communicate emotion through movement in different scenarios. During the first activity, participants gathered in groups of 2-3 to explore robotic movement:

  • Each person wrote down different characteristics that classified a good handshake on a sticky note
  • Each person also wrote down a situation and location in which they wanted to feel heard
  • After writing down these situations on sticky notes, we then placed them on a white board
  • Each team then selected one location, one situation, and three characteristics to emulate in a new robot greeting or goodbye

The teams then began constructing an interaction that allowed them to greet each other with their assigned scenarios. Some of the interactions felt awkward and unbelievable, but it helped the team visualize pain-points that might be felt in an actual interaction. Each team was then given a robot from the lab to work with and assigned it a role of one of the participants. Role playing with robots gave each team an opportunity to visualize how a robot would interact with a human and see what scenarios did and didn’t work.  

Participant takes sticky note off white board

Researchers creating scenarios for the robots

During the second activity, participants switched roles and took the three characteristics they had given the robot and took them to a new scenario. Once again, the participants were able to consider a variety of possibilities after watching the interactions occur. Even when the interaction didn’t seem to succeed, watching these interactions gave our team lots to think about. For example, one participant excitedly greeted a robot who was trained to sense stress. The robot began taking deep relaxing breaths when it saw the participant coming, making the participant feel their presence was stressing out the robot. Experimenting with movement in this way showed us how nuanced interactions are and that while voice and face are important, adding movement allows us to think about the experience holistically.  

Up next: Exploring how EMAR might move

Workshopping movement with Amy allowed our team to begin thinking about how EMAR might move when interacting with stressed teens. Our team left with the understanding that EMAR’s movements need to be contextually versatile, conveying meaning in a variety of diverse circumstances leaving little error for misinterpreted interactions.