Last Friday, while reading on the train, I came across an interesting question: “What would an iron look like if it were designed for a predominantly male market?” To me, as I am  not ironing (shame on me!), I am asking this question more because of fun. However, the design of many home technologies (is an iron a technology?) are “rooted in common cultural representations of masculinity and femininity.” Apart from that, I was surprised to notice that actually in domestic cooking technologies there is a strong emphasis on efficiency over quality (microwaves, for example, make food faster but not better). Hah! This is a convenient statement for me to argument why I neither have a dishwasher nor a microwave at home :)

Reference: G. Bell, M. Blythe, P. Sengers (2005) Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies. Published in ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), Volume 12 Issue 2, June 2005, pp 149 – 173, ACM New York, NY, USA, doi>10.1145/1067860.1067862

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EPFL Robotic Festival 2012

Another year has passed and I have been quite busy but a couple of weeks ago it was time again for this year’s robotic festival at EPFL! On the 5th of May, about 15.000 visitors came to our campus on the shores of Lake Geneva to have a look at what’s going on in robotics. You couldn’t make it there? Then you can watch this great video from Guillaume Lauzier to get an impression of the event.


Festival Robotique 2012, by Guillaume Lauzier

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The strange thing about the “undo button”

Today, I am with Valérie at the innorobo summit in Lyon, France where we presented some insights from our ethnographic study with robots in homes. We had some inspiring conversations with a couple of people after the talk and at one point somebody raised the popular “generation”-question. Thus, whether there exists a generation of “digital natives” (I name it like this, even though the term has been used less recently) which implies that these rather younger people adopt novel technology such as robots more easily than elderly people, for instance. It is true that in our own research I observed elderly people being more hesitant towards a domestic robot. Whereas I would say that in general elderly people are also open towards innovative technology it is right that we cannot talk about a generation just like a “bulk of people” (as my colleague Valérie mentioned). Though, I was asking myself, why do elderly people tend to hesitate in actually using a robot and pressing the “clean”-button (as in our case with the Roombas)? I think, it has something to do with that they are not used to the “undo button” that younger people are very familiar with. They just try something out because in any case even if it goes wrong, they can reverse it thanks to the “undo button” (in digital environments, not in the real world). But elderly people who did not grow up with the “undo button” are not used to this and hesitate longer with trying out something technological. I don’t want to say that young people don’t think about the consequences of their actions and elderly do but I have the impression that there is a difference in how people of different age approach novel technologies. It certainly depends on their experiences and expectations and both are differ between a 20 years old and an 80 years old person. When I asked an elderly lady why she didn’t use the robot, she replied she was afraid of breaking something or doing something wrong with it. Well, I’m already curious to see how I’ll think about this in 50 years from now :)

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To enter our homes, maybe robots should not be robots.

To enter our homes, maybe robots should not be robots.

Argh, that seems controversal. Robots are so fascinating to us but though we don’t want to have them at home. Not really at least. Hardly anyone could imagine to live with a robot. It’s still a lot about how we imagine robots to be and most of us might have a rather negative picture. But what if robots were not like that? What if they just would not be robots?

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Ce soir à la télé: “A bon entendeur” teste les robots-aspirateurs

Ce soir à la télévision suisse romande, “A bon entendeur” donne un aperçu sur notre projet “robots for daily life”. Un interview avec ma collègue Valérie Bauwens et autres collaborateurs à l’EPFL qui ont évalué la performance des robots-aspirateurs. La tsr1 annonce:

“Un robot qui fait le ménage et aspire la poussière pendant que vous êtes au travail… Depuis quelques années, les robots aspirateurs ont débarqué dans nos foyers, rejoignant la cohorte de robots ménagers que l’homme a inventés pour se soulager des tâches les plus ingrates. Mais ces aspirateurs-robots sont-ils efficaces et économes en énergie? Changent-ils nos comportements?”

Merci de regarder exceptionnellement la télé ce soir :)

Source: http://www.tsr.ch/emissions/abe/3615943-aspirateurs-robots-abe-teste-les-nouvelles-fees-du-logis.html

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Thymio II: EPFL Robot Helps Santa Claus Distribute Presents

Have a look at this year’s Santa’s Little Helper, it’s a robot! I just found out that the Thymio II, an educational robot that was created by Fanny Riedo and her colleagues at EPFL, helps Santa Claus distribute presents:

I  hope all presents will safely arrive in time and I wish you a merry Christmas!

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iRobot launches Roomba revenge game for iOS

You don’t have enough from carrying out cleaning activities? Or you already have a Roomba vacuum cleaning robot that does the floors for you? From now on you can distract yourself with the new “Roomba Revenge Game” for iOS: “As the fearless hero of Roomba Revenge, the new game app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, Roomba makes cleaning a blast. In the virtual world, just like the real world, Roomba battles the evil Dust Bunnies, gobbling up dirt, dust and debris until the floor’s absolutely spotless.” writes iRobot on their YouTube site.

While guiding the beloved robot around, you shouldn’t get too close to the nasty bunnies or they’ll give Roomba a stomping and thrown down even more dirt. Except if you enter the Revenge mode, when Roomba becomes invincible and can gobble up the Dust Bunnies as they try to run and hide from his powerful suction. Other characters you’ll encounter are cats that slow you down and there’s also the human owner who picks up the robot to get him out of trouble and takes him to rooms he can’t otherwise get into. It’s a fun little title that costs $0.99 and a portion of the game proceeds is going to SPARK, iRobot’s education initiative to encourage students in STEM fields…

Source: http://www.intomobile.com/2011/12/13/irobot-roomba-mobile-game-hits-apple-appstore/

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