Empowering Robot Designers: A Digital Tool for Early-Stage Social Robot Prototyping and Communication

by Adam Felts

Matt Milton, a former graduate student in human factors engineering at Tufts University and student researcher at the MIT AgeLab, presented a poster at the 2024 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in Honolulu, Hawaii, which discussed his efforts to improve the development of social robots.

Social robots may be useful as a tool of education, social companionship, and instrumental support for people of all ages, and particularly for older adults, who may require support to retain their independence and are more likely to be social isolated. However, the product category remains in its nascent stages, with open questions about the ideal design of social robots depending on its primary uses. Additionally, social robots are often designed by interdisciplinary teams with widely varying skills and vocabularies. To help foster more clarity on design principles for development teams, Milton developed an experimental digital tool for early-stage social robot prototyping and communication.

The tool provides an easy-to-use interface for interdisciplinary teams to create a prototype robot design, explicitly identify what uses the product will be intended for, and receive an overall conceptual and visual summary of their prototype to further development and conversation within a team.

Two industry experts were recruited to evaluate the tool. They noted that the tool allowed for the rapid generation of new concepts, its utility as an education tool on design decision-making, and its facilitation of interdisciplinary design.

The poster was co-authored by AgeLab researchers Shabnam FakhrHosseini, Chaiwoo Lee, and Jospeh Coughlin.

View a PDF of the poster here.

  • Share
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Get Involved

Interested in this area of study? See how you can participate in AgeLab research or become a volunteer.


About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

More From the Blog

2020 OMEGA Summit Brings Together Students, Aging Professionals, Past Scholarship Winners

October 30, 2020

2020 Summer Interns Work on OMEGA, Lifestyle Leaders, C3 Project

August 26, 2020

2021 Spring Speaker Series Begins with Presentation from Dr. Catherine García on Social Determinants of Health

March 23, 2021