Date of Award

2012

Embargo Period

10-30-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)

Department

Design

Advisor(s)

Jodi Forlizzi

Abstract

Robotic technologies are increasingly entering our domestic environment. iRobot, manufacturer of the Roomba floor vacuuming robot, reports the sale of over six million home robots. While domestic robots are often created solely to perform one specific task, their influence extends beyond their intended function. For example, the Roomba’s primary function is to vacuum dirt and debris from the floor; however, Jodi Forlizzi, in “How Robotic Products Become Social Products: An Ethnographic Study of Cleaning in the Home,” has shown that the Roomba has “substantial and lasting impact on people, activities, and the use of other cleaning products within an existing product ecology.”

This research addresses the need to explore the cultural, social, and aesthetic implications of robotic technologies in the home. This work takes a critical design approach, where design artifacts are situated in the context of use in order to challenge existing thoughts and provoke new ideas. Using this approach, we can question the role and behavior of home robotics beyond the practical functionality of current, commercial robots.

The realization of functioning design artifacts is central to this exploration. The development process grounds the design in reality and forces it to confront the details of physical experience in addition to enabling multisensory interaction. Ultimately, the design artifacts examine and extend the cultural, social, and aesthetic experience of domestic robots.

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