This thesis investigates the intersections of three disciplines, that are Design Research, Human-Robot Interaction studies, and Child Studies. In particular, this doctoral research is focused on two research questions, namely, what is (or might be) the role of design research in HRI? And, how to design acceptable and desirable child-robot play applications?
The rst chapter introduces an overview of the mutual interest between robotics and design that is at the basis of the research. On the one hand, the interest of design toward robotics is documented through some exemplary projects from artists and designers that speculate on the human-robot coexistence condition. Vice versa, the robotics interest toward design is documented by referring to some tracks of robotic conferences, scienti c workshops and robotics journals which focused on the design-robotics relationship. Finally, a brief description of the background conditions that characterized this doctoral research are introduced, such as the fact of being a research founded by a company.
The second chapter provides an overview of the state of the art of the intersections between three multidisciplinary disciplines. First, a de nition of Design Research is provided, together with its main trends and open issues. Then, the review focuses on the contribution of Design Research to the HRI eld, which can be summed up in actions focused on three aspects: artefacts, stakeholders, and contexts.
This is followed by a focus on the role of Design Research within the context of children studies, in which it is possible to identify two main design-child relationships: design as a method for developing children’s learning experiences; and children as part of the design process for developing novel interactive systems.
The third chapter introduces the Research through Design (RtD) approach and its relevance in conducting design research in HRI. The proposed methodology, based on this approach, is particularly characterized by the presence of design explorations as study methods. These, in turn, are developed through a common project’s
methodology, also reported in this chapter.
The fourth chapter is dedicated to the analysis of the scenario in which the child-robot interaction takes place. This was aimed at understanding what is edutainment robotics for children, its common features, how it relates to existing children play types, and where the interaction takes place. The chapter provides also a focus on the relationship between children and technology on a more general level, through which two themes and relative design opportunities were identi ed: physically active play and objects-to-think-with.
These were respectively addressed in the two design explorations presented in this thesis: Phygital Play and Shybo.
The Phygital Play project consists of an exploration of natural interaction modalities with robots, through mixed-reality, for fostering children’s active behaviours. To this end, a game platform was developed for allowing children to play with or against a robot, through body movement.
Shybo, instead, is a low-anthropomorphic robot for playful learning activities with children that can be carried out in educational contexts. The robot, which reacts to properties of the physical environment, is designed to support different kinds of experiences.
Then, the chapter eight is dedicated to the research outcomes, that were de ned through a process of re ection. The contribution of the research was analysed and documented by focusing on three main levels, namely: artefact, knowledge and theory. The artefact level corresponds to the situated implementations developed through the projects. The knowledge level consists of a set of actionable principles, emerged from the results and lessons learned from the projects. At the theory level, a theoretical framework was proposed with the aim of informing the future design of child- robot play applications.
The last chapter provides a nal overview of the doctoral research, a series of limitations regarding the research, its process and its outcomes, and some indications for future research.