Tag Archive | design

Designing social robots

Event: Social Robotics Breakfast

Time: 29.10.2018 klo 8.30-11.30

Place: Futurice, Helsinki

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Social Robotics Breakfast organized by Futurice brought together people enthusiastic about robots, design and plentiful breakfasts, so no wonder I was there as well.

Introduction to Social Robotics

The morning started with a panel discussion about social robotics. The panel consisted of human experts involved in social robotics research as well as Momo the Robot – Futurice’s very own social robot used for experimenting the different aspects of social interaction between people and robots. I had seen videos of Momo before and I knew that there’s a human behind the screens making Momo talk, but seeing it live was still an interesting experience. I somehow felt like it was Momo speaking despite knowing it’s just a “robot-shaped loudspeaker”.

What is a Social Robot?

The panel started by defining a social robot as a robot whose main task is to interact with humans, which is why designing social robots should be human-centric, not technology-centric. Human-centricity tends to lead into designing human-like robots even though that wouldn’t be technologically reasonable. However, human-like robots are often perceived as “slightly weird humans” having their own personality and characteristics, which may lead into unrealistic expectations towards the robot. Social robot designers definitely need to think about how to set the expectations to correct level and clearly express what the robot is capable of.

The New Era of Robotics

According to the panel, a new era of robotics is about to begin. Robots are no longer restricted in the factories but operate among us, which means that a new social layer is needed to enable safe and comfortable interaction between humans and robots. Even the infrastructure may need to change to accommodate the needs of robots moving around. All this requires cooperation between engineers, designers, UX experts and other professionals. People have traditionally divided things into three categories: non-living things, living animals and humans. Ultimately this new era of robots could even lead into a fourth category of robots emerging.

Social Robotics in Health Care

Niina Holappa from Prizztech, Mika Koverola from the University of Helsinki and Minja Axelsson from Futurice shared their experiences from designing and researching social robots in health care.

Ethical considerations had a strong emphasis in all presentations during the day. With more traditional robots used in diagnostics and logistics or for clinical and rehabilitative purposes, the traditional etchical criteria such as safety and price are sufficient. However, with new types of social robots enabling telepresence, assisting and accompanying the patients, new considerations related to e.g. privacy, fear, affection and confusion need to be dealt with.

Overall the attitude towards health care robots of both the patients and the personnel is tolerant, but there are also worries. The biggest worries of the patients are the lack of knowledge and the fear of losing human contact, whereas the personnel is worried about being replaced with technology and not getting enough technical support.

Summarized, a social robot is ethical if it is supportive and can be used voluntarily.

Creating a social robot

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The event ended with a quick workshop where we got to design our own social robots with the help of Futurice’s Social Robot Design Toolkit. The toolkit consisted of different canvases that guided us from defining the user group and their needs to thinking about different problems and solutions as well as defining our design guidelines and finally creating the robot design MVP.

The canvases loosely followed the double diamond process, though we of course didn’t have time for actual research or user testing. There were also elements specific to robot design such as thinking about the sensors and communication technologies, and defining the possible problems and solutions also from the robot point of view. Also ethics were strongly present on almost each of the canvases.

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Our team came up with Bud – a personalized companion for kids with chronic diseases. Bud welcomes the kids in the hospital and supports them during their patient journey, maybe even turning the unpleasant hospital visits into something cool and enjoyable.

Due to the limited time reserved for the workshop we unfortunately didn’t have time to go through all the canvases properly. However, the process brings a nice human-centric touch to designing robots and I would definitely like to try it again – though as a M.Sc. in automation technology I would only use it as an additional thought provoker to the technical design.

More information and ideas:

https://www.futuricerobotics.com/

https://spiceprogram.org/other-encounter/

Practical Design Thinking – Power of Fast Prototyping

The Course in Practical Design Thinking at Laurea was definitely a wow-moment. After two days of practicing design thinking we left inspired and empowered to take a new look of our life and work challenges. It f I would to choose the most powerful powerful tool I learned during this course it would be rapid prototyping.

What Fast Prototyping really is ?

Fast prototyping is a method often used by designers in Elaboration Phase (Tschimmel, K. 2012) or in Ideation Phase (Brown, T.,  2008)

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Tim Brown calls rapid prototyping ‚Building to Think’ (Brown, T., 2009) . According to Brown, prototypes are ‚quick and dirty’ way to generate understanding and access idea feasibility faster. Prototypes should consume only as much time and effort and investment as it is necessary to obtain the valuable feedback.

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How to Prototype?

Both mentioned authors give examples of different technologies/solutions for rapid prototyping. From Lego, paper, to 3D digital visualisation and mobile app mockup software. Some of these technologies are especially useful when designing services. Prototyping allows to act out the end-to-end service in order to make sure that designers will be able unlock the additional insights by transitioning back and forth in between theoretical and physical models.

High-Fidelity and Low-Fidelity Prototyping

In the literature we can find an ongoing debate on high vs low fidelity prototyping. The authors argue  how much the prototype should resemble the final product (Walker et al 2002).

  • „Low-fidelity prototypes are often paper-based and do not allow user interactions.  They range from a series of hand-drawn mock-ups to printouts.  In theory, low-fidelity sketches are quicker to create. Low-fidelity prototypes are helpful in enabling early visualisation of alternative design solutions, which helps provoke innovation and improvement. An additional advantage to this approach is that when using rough sketches, users may feel more comfortable suggesting changes.
  • High-fidelity prototypes are computer-based, and usually allow realistic (mouse-keyboard) user interactions. High-fidelity prototypes take you as close as possible to a true representation of the user interface. High-fidelity prototypes are assumed to be much more effective in collecting true human performance data (e.g., time to complete a task), and in demonstrating actual products to clients, management, and others.”

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A good balance of low cost and representation is a essential if we want to fully benefit from the power of prototyping.

10 prototyping Principles

Prototyping might seem simple, however to make it useful it’s good to know the basic rules. Alex Osterwalder his book „Value Proposition Design” (2014) gives us 10 principles of prototyping.

  1. Make it visual and tangible – moving from conceptual to physical in at the very essence of prototyping
  2. Embrace beginners Mind – don’t let existing knowledge to limit you.
  3. Don’t fall in love with the first ideas, create alternatives instead
  4. Feel comfortable in liquid state
  5. Start with lo fidelity and refine – avoid refined prototypes as they are difficult to throw away
  6. Expose work early – seek criticism. Don’t take negative feedback personally, embrace it as valuable information to improve the model.
  7. Learn faster by failing early often and cheaply. Avoid fear of fear of failure as it is holding you from exploring new territories.
  8. Use creativity techniques to break out of how things are usually done in your company
  9. Create „Shrek Models” – extreme prototypes not for building, buy igniting discussion
  10. Track learnings, insights and progress.  You might use them later in the process.

Prototyping in practice 

The course allowed us to unveil the power of prototyping ourselves by puting theory into practice. While designing a new learning experience at Laurea that would transform a school into world-renowned institution we found the fast prototyping with Lego extremely useful. Our low fidelity model represented a new Laurea education experience. We tried not to hold back to current physical structural limitations of campus and be comfortable with a liquid state of gradually refining the model. Exposing the work to our fellow students was especially revealing. It was hard not to discuss the feedback but to take it and use for model improvement.  Rapid prototyping once again proved itself to be a powerful way to transform ideas and deliver solutions.

Osterwalder, A. et all (2014) Value Proposition Design, Wiley 


Brown, T. and Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design. New York: Harper Business.


Walker, M. Takayama, L., & Landay, J. A. (2002). Low- or high-fidelity, paper or computer? Choosing attributes when testing web prototypes. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: HFES 2002, USA, 661-665.


Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona. 


Brown, T. 2008. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. June, pp. 84-92


https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/prototyping.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beginner’s guide to Design Thinking

by Jenny Kurjenniemi

Simply put, Design Thinking is a process for creative problem-solving.

This means solving any kind of problem, from how to secure clean water supply in developing countries, to how to create the kind of service that people will be interested in and gain financial value for the innovation.

It’s good to understand from the beginning that there is no design thinking without design doing. Super artistic skills are not required but sketching, visualizing, and prototyping are an integral part of it. We all need creative problem-solving and yes – we can all do the creative hands on part with some practice.

 

I will take you through the design thinking process and the text is divided into four chapters.

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Should design thinking really be human-centred?

While reading Tim Brown’s “Change by Design”, I was touched by the story of the ORAL B toothbrush found among the rubbish deposited on the beach. Through this story Tim Brown asked himself and us about the responsibility of designers and design thinkers when designing. That resonates with me. We’re responsible for creating sustainable, eco-friendly change in the world either as creators or facilitators. But how to remember this and most importantly how to implement it? Does education, existing methods and tools give us any hints here? It seems that they concentrate mostly on human needs.

 

 

In early design thinking literature such as “Change by Design” or Tim’s article in the Harvard Business Review ”Design Thinking”, the subject of ecological responsibility wasn’t elaborated and included in the design thinking process. Although Roger Martin (in “The design of business”) listed social responsibility as part of Design Thinking, what about ecological responsibility? We missed placing it explicitly within existing DT models such as the IDEO one: Inspiration-Ideation-Implementation or Jeane Liedtke’s and Tim Ogilvie’s Designing for Growth approach or Katja Tschimmel’s Evolution 6² model. I browsed a few books collecting design thinking tools and couldn’t find any tools including ecological responsibility.

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Tim Brown seemed to answer this need in 2017, a year when IDEO in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created “The circular design guide”. Check this website https://www.circulardesignguide.com . You will find ready-to-use tools: workshops scripts, modified templates to use in the process of designing for the sake of the circular economy.

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Nokia at Helsinki Design Week: Innovation in an enterprise

As part of Helsinki Design Week this year, Nokia spoke about the role innovation plays in Nokia’s present and future. It was exciting to learn how Design Thinking can have a big impact on the whole organisation. In this blog post, I share my favourite takeaways from the talk.

 

A small design team can make a difference

 

Would you believe it if I told you that Nokia currently sports a team of 19  in-house designers? At Nokia’s peak, they had over 600. I thought 19 sounded a pretty small number seeing the size of the company, but it goes to show that you don’t necessarily need a huge design team to innovate as long as you’re organised correctly (see my next point about multidisciplinary teams)

Innovate in multidisciplinary teams

With over 110,000 employees globally, innovation could get lost in the organisational structures. However, Nokia have really made an effort to ensure there are no such barriers to innovation. In every innovation project, a multi-disciplinary team is formed from the Design team, Business and Engineers.

The design process starts with a collaboration between the different teams from day one. The Product Development Lifecycle is followed and every stage needs to be agreed by all 3 groups to move forward. As all decisions are discussed within the multidisciplinary group meaning there is not only internal buy-in, but the maximum value from the different skill sets available in the group (think designers meet engineers etc.)

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Using Design Thinking to Build a VR Study Experience

What do you get when you put together a group of Laurea MBA in Service Innovation and Design students and Mindshake’s Katja Tschimmel and task the group to innovate a service for international students as part of the Design Thinking course? A crazy lot of innovation, creativity, collaboration, and learnings. In this blog post, I will go through how one group utilised Design Thinking to create a service offering a full in-class VR experience to anyone not physically present.

Everyone has creativity in them – uncovering our creative confidence

First, we learned the theory and about the toolkit for practical Design Thinking, including opportunity mind mapping, intent statement and insight and stakeholder maps.

As innovation starts with idea generation, these tools were great for uncovering creativity and helped narrow down our focus. IDEO’s Tom and David Kelley discuss in their book Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all (Crown Publishing Group, 2013) how everyone has creativity in them and these tools are a testament to that. For our team, the creative confidence was really built up by brainwriting which brought us the collective brainchild of creating a VR in-class experience from anywhere.

Brainwriting

Fluency and flexibility demonstrated during the brainwriting exercise which finally lead us to cluster the ideas that had to do with VR

Presenting the prototype

Then it was the time to create a prototype to visually present the concept. This concept test gave us invaluable feedback from the other team which we then incorporated in the service (it was great that we had to listen to the feedback in silence as there was only the feedback, no defending of what we thought – making us concentrate on just what people want and need in their lives, also highlighted of importance by IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown in HBR back in 2008).

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A prototype of the VR in-class experience

 

The real test and the permission to fail

Then we moved on to the service blueprint which proved to be a bit more difficult than our team had thought. Now was the time we actually had to answer some tough questions and we realised that we may not have actually gathered all the information we thought we did.

In real life, we would have taken a few steps back and interviewed international students (and other stakeholders), and possibly decided that this service was not viable. Failure was an option, but for the sake of the learning experience, we decided to come up with some of the answers. Tom and David Kelley also discuss in their book Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all about the “permission to fail” which essentially means that you have to learn to embrace failure to come up with better innovations. For us, the service blueprint demonstrated well that failure is part of the innovation process and not something to be afraid of.

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Pitch perfect innovation and collaboration

We were then ready to pitch our innovation using storytelling. Overall, the tools really gave the framework for innovation, directing us to the goal of being able to pitch a concept.

What was also remarkable was how well we collaborated, even though we barely knew each other. Tim Brown also states in his HBR article from 2008 that the best Design Thinkers are not just experts in their own discipline but have experience from others. After working in a truly multidisciplinary team, I can fully see how much innovation benefits.

What do you think, how has your experience with practical Design Thinking been?

Were we at our happiest 15 million years ago, and what’s happened to the lingo of design?

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On the morning of 20 March, Reaktor Design Breakfast event took place in Helsinki. Evolved from a small, mostly local and IT focused company to an international one of strategy, design and engineering, Reaktor is perhaps one of the hottest companies in Finland. Known for its flat hierarchy and multiple prizes won for best place to work, Reaktor also hosts an array of tech and design events for the public.

The main speaker of the event was Katri Saarikivi, a cognitive neuroscientist from Helsinki University and one of the leading researchers and speakers on empathy particularly in digital environments. As always, her presentation was delightful: nicely flowing from empathy as a survival skill for humans 15 million years ago to empathy online and in modern day work organisations. Starting from such ancient setting was not only interesting in order to learn about empathy and its implications for humans throughout our history but, as it was noted, some researchers think 15 million years ago was when us humans were at our most happiest: living in forests and focusing on survival, way before invention of the first tools. Makes one think how much we really have evolved and to what direction…

From there we moved on to the concept of work that Saarikivi describes as “solving the problems of other human beings“, responding to others’ needs besides one’s own. Hence, according to Saarikivi, the need for work done by humans continues to be constant, despite any and all changes that might be coming due to advances in technology such as AI and machine learning.

“Empathy might be at the very core of our best problem-solving ability”

A part of the presentation was around human-centric work and human-centric design: highlighting the role of empathy in understanding the differences between people and thus working better together as well as better responding to others’ needs. The importance of collective intelligence was highlighted: “Best thinking, best work is more often than not a shared activity.” And one of the factors greatly affecting it was non-surprisingly empathy.

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Based on studies, Saarikivi also argued that humans are naturally selfless, empathic, and look after one another. However according to research, being in a position of power can reduce your empathy; and the higher your economic status, the lower your empathy skills. The research showed that brains of people in a position of power did not respond as much to other people’s pain as others’ did. Hence one could claim that having artificial positions of power – such as hierarchy in a work place – is not the way to increase empathy in an organisation.

 

IMG_0884As an example of an organisation not at all encouraging empathy or collective intelligence Saarikivi humorously (or, sadly?) showed us a photo of the main hall of the Finnish Parliament: a setting that encourages competition, highlights monologue, and gives no equal opportunity to all to speak nor respond. Saarikivi continued that disregard of emotions can lead to detrimental effects on work, collaboration, and information quality. This is something to consider especially in digital (work) environments, as the digital tools we still have largely transmit emotions rather poorly.

Empathy: Understand, Act, and Experience

During her presentation Saarikivi also discussed what can be seen as the three sides to empathy: understanding, acting, and experiencing. All three parts are needed for empathy; any one of them missing would not result in the real thing. Empathy skills, however, can be improved by practice. Your imagination is an important empathy skill, Saarikivi reminded, and reading fiction has indeed been scientifically proven to enhance our imagination and empathy skills.

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She walked us through each of the three aspects of empathy, and also continued on the interesting themes while responding to some participant questions. She pointed out that empathy is not an inherently a positive personality trait but a cognitive skill or mechanism. When asked about any negative aspects of said mechanism, Saarikivi mentioned narcissists. This turn tied it nicely back to the earlier discussion on benefits of flat organisations, narcissist not being interested in applying for positions in flat organisations as they don’t want to be equal wanting to rather rise higher than others. The whole presentation and discussion it encouraged was an interesting dive into empathy – a skill often mentioned as one of the most important tools of a Service Designer.

“Design’s focus has shifted from user needs to business needs”

After Katri Saarikivi’s presentation it was time for Reaktor’s own speakers: Hannu Oksa, Vesa Metsätähti, and Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen. Out of those presentations, Reaktor’s Creative Director Hannu Oksa’s resonated with me the most. He discussed the evolving role and ways of design, recently seemingly moving away from designing with and for the user towards focusing on the business needs. He also gave some chilling examples on the rise of fake news and purposely addictive design, stating this has made him deeply consider whether he is part of the problem and making it worse for others. Responsible design in the field of tech is not a topic I’ve often heard about – especially introduced by someone whose career is in the field. IMG_0889

Oksa also discussed the trend of worshipping data without criticism, despite all data being based on history: after all, historical data is exclusive, divisive, and by definition looks back rather than in the future. This hit very close to home, as in many situations and settings even fairly clever people have loudly expressed wanting to e.g. base their entire product or service development on data gathered digitally about their users (or potential users). That can perhaps be all good and well when trying to understand the past situations and coldly follow one’s users’ steps on some platform etc. with for example the help of A/B testing, however how would that give you actual information on WHY they have been doing what they have been doing on a deeper level? Would that tell you what they are like or what they will do in the future? And will that tell you if that is what they actually need or want, or is it simply a representation of the current (well, past) offering – not necessarily having anything to do with the user’s ideal scenario or solution? This kind of worshipping of (past!) data always gives me the chills and certainly wakes up the human-centric designer in me. Often, unfortunately, it’s not a battle worth fighting.

Another thought-provoking, perhaps accidental point was made by Vesa Metsätähti right at the start of his presentation, when he introduced his presentation topic radiot.fi by describing it being “an old service, at least 3-4 years old now.” Indeed, what is the life expectation of a service nowadays, and how long do we consider a service new?

The last presentation by Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen was “From Design Vision to Reality”. They introduced a project done for Finnair with a mix of physical and digital services. This gave some practical examples on how to work on a multi-platform project with focus on the customer experience in both the physical and digital parts of the same service.

The breakfast event was definitely worth attending, and hopefully there will be equally interesting ones organised in the near future!

 

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.