Your Next Robot Needs Googly Eyes, And Other Lessons From Disney

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There are so many important design decisions behind a robot: battery, means of locomotion, and position sensing, to name a few. But at a library in Helsinki, one of the most surprising design features for a librarian’s assistant robot was googly eyes. A company called Futurice built a robot for the Oodi library and found that googly eyes were a very important component.

The eyes are not to help the robot see, because of course they aren’t functional — at least not in that way. However without the eyes, robot designers found that people had trouble relating to the service robot. In addition, the robot needed emotions that it could show using the eyes and various sounds along with motion. This was inspired, apparently, by Disney’s rules for animation. In particular, the eyes would fit the rule of “exaggeration.” The robot could look bored when it had no task, excited when it was helping people, and unhappy when people were not being cooperative.

The actual purpose of the robot is to help patrons find books or sections they want, through a touch screen allowing the user to search for a book or category. The MiR200 robot’s original purpose was to move books between floors, but that doesn’t require much social interaction.

Perhaps you wonder what the emotion code — or all the code — looks like? Go check it out on GitHub. If you want to build a pair of googly eyes, grab some stepper motors and read a post from [BikerGlen].

In the future, the robot may get eyebrows to even further express the little robot’s emotions. If you build something similar and want to do your own take at eyebrows, we got you.



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