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At the lab, we explore how embodied intelligent agents can provide collaborative forms of assistance and support by crafting their intelligent capabilities in ways that afford meaningful interactions within particular contexts of use. We organise the research across three interconnected programs:

  • Characters – understanding the expressive features of embodied intelligent agents and how people experience and make sense of them as an emerging product category
  • Collaborations – investigating the interaction mechanisms of embodied intelligent agents concerning their shared intentionality and distributed agency
  • Partnerships – researching how people use and appropriate embodied intelligent agents in particular contexts of use and the transformation and impact this brings forth over time.

Tools and Methods

We explore how methods from theater, design and engineering can be combined to make smart products expressive while staying true to the capabilities of their sensors, software, connectivity and means of actuation. Furthermore, speculative design is investigated to help craft new intelligent systems as propositions that allow them to be discussed and critiqued in the early phases of their development. Below we describe some of our the tools and methods in progress.

  • Critical Scenarios (CSs) is a methodological tool to design Human-Robot Interactions for particular contexts of use. As a rich and versatile concept, CSs bring together particular angles that are important when designing such interactions. For instance, “scenarios” in CSs appeal to both the real and the possible, the motive and the plot, the unfolding of events and the setting in which they take place. While the “critical” in CSs refer to both practical and ethical understanding of these scenarios.
  • Behavioral Layers are a conceptualisation of behavior that can serve as an intermediate between designers and engineers. It describes behaviors as emerging from a rich combination of sub-behaviors — e.g. restocking the shelves in combination with giving someone space to get something from the shelf you are restocking. This follows the ideas of Brooks reactive robotics (and Braitenberg’s vehicles), with the addition of regulatory layers (regulated reactive robotics).

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