Research Insights

High expectations

Consumers have high expectations for robotic cleaning devices that go unmet.

Reliability-Trust-Value Loop

Unreliability has caused consumers to not fully trust the autonomy of robotic cleaning devices.

Principles for designing new robotic products

Set expectations

As in-home robotics become more prevalent, setting expectations for a robotic product’s capabilities is crucial to mitigating long-term buyer’s remorse. Market messaging should not oversell, and the out-of-the-box experience needs to be simple and efficient to establish baseline expectations that allow users to forgive the initial navigation and decision-making flaws in the robotic device.

Build trust

With any in-home robotic device, particularly one that moves through a user’s home, trust is a crucial precursor to the user realizing the full value of the product. Clearly communicating the product’s internal state and decision- making rationale is imperative–as is providing immediate feedback after user input. These steps build a relationship with the user and enable the user to experience the home robot’s full potential.

Demonstrate Value

In-home robotics need to add value through automation that is superior to existing manual solutions to problems. For instance, if your robot vacuum isn’t more efficient than your regular vacuum, the robotic device will slowly fall into disuse. The robot needs to clearly and visually convey its value, showing its progress in completing the job to be done. This gives the user confidence that the device did its tasks while the user was away.

Ultimately as a team, we decided to focus our efforts in finding ways for robotic vacuum cleaners to build trust.

Design Process: Hybrid Control and Physical Interface

Early Prototype Exploration

The 2-in-1 hybrid control was an early prototyping idea we experimented with that resurfaced later in our process. We created an early prototype using cardboard, a pole and a hackable Roomba with painter’s tape.

High-Fidelity Prototype

After the early prototypes, we began to integrate the hybrid control mechanism and dock with ambient display into a unified system. We even tried making the handle the ambient display, but users found that confusing. In the end, the crux of the problem was making the handle easy to attach and detach - which we eventually accomplished with two vacuum formed pieces that locked together under pressure.

Design Process: Lights as Communicator

Early Prototyping and UserTesting

Using an arduino and LED light rim taped onto the Samsung POWERbot 7090, we tested light patterns for our situations, including start up, shut down, scanning, clean complete and stuck. We tested the same situations with sounds ranging from samples of "Star Wars" droids to futuristic and generic beeping. Users appreciated the greater communication from the RVC but had reservations about the degree to which bright lights and sound might become overwhelming.

High-Fidelity Prototype

In creating our final high fidelity prototype, we used a vacuum former to create a hard plastic shell in the shape of the POWERbot 7090 (as this will be the shape of the Samsung product for the next three years). We then inlaid lights and hardware to create a more refined aesthetic. From user testing, we identified the ideal situations for the various combinations of light, sound and motion.

Design Process: Ambient Display

Prototype Iterations

After early sketches, we began to integrate the hybrid controls and the dock with ambient reminders into a unified system. Users liked the tree metaphor for its connections to peace and health–but preferred it in a discrete and smaller final form.

High-Fidelity Prototype

Our final prototype used natural colors of green, yellow and dark orange to indicate home health. Users found the colors to be intuitive in conveying the status of the home and the frequency of device usage. In tests, users indicated seeing the green fade to dark orange would compel them to vacuum without finding the display to be too alarming (as they did when we tested with the color red).