The Haptic Creature

The Robot: Design Considerations

The following considerations guided the design and development of the robot.

  1. The Haptic Creature should be perceived as animal-like but not represent a specific animal nor attempt to be overly realistic.
    Similar to the consideration for the Hapticat prototype, this removed any limitations on characteristics inherent to any one species. More importantly, however, this reduced the human’s expectations of the robot that, in turn, allowed for a shift in focus from the form to the interaction.
  2. The Haptic Creature’s actuation mechanisms must work in concert with one another.
    While not limited to the characteristics of one particular species, the robot’s various means of expression must still seem to be part of a coherent whole in order to provide an engaging experience. Some features may dominate others — e.g., breathing versus ear stiffness — but they should all appear as belonging together.
  3. The Haptic Creature should interact solely through the touch modality.
    The robot must sense the human solely though touch and, similarly, its expressive capabilities must be limited only to haptic means. This, however, has the implied restriction that visual and auditory artifacts must be minimized wherever possible.
  4. The Haptic Creature should have a pleasant feel.
    Since the focus of the interaction is touch, the overall feel of the robot should not be unpleasant — e.g., minimize sharp edges, ensure fur is comfortable to touch. This includes the robot’s weight, which should approximate that of a similarly sized animal.
  5. The Haptic Creature’s contact points should be maximized.
    The form of the Haptic Creature was often guided to facilitate human haptic interaction. For example, the robot’s ears were elongated to better afford grasping. Similarly, its backside was expanded to increase surface area and rounded to accommodate the natural position of the human hand.
  6. The Haptic Creature should have no discernible facial features.
    The face is the primary means of emotion expression for humans. Furthermore, humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize animal emotions. Therefore, my focus on affective touch required the removal of any confounds related to interpretations of emotion from the face. As demonstrated by the myriad of emotion recognition studies utilizing images of facial expressions, even a static face can convey emotion. Furthermore, the robot’s fur has the potential to adjust when touched. If I was to employ a static face, the shifting of the fur could unexpectedly modify the face, resulting in the perception of expressions changes.
  7. The Haptic Creature should be robust.
    The robot must be able to withstand direct, physical interaction in semi-supervised environments with successive untrained individuals over extended time periods.