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Multimodal Robotic Platform for Shared Experiences

Touchibo is a modular robotic platform for enriching interpersonal communication in human-robot group activities, suitable for children with mixed visual abilities. Touchibo incorporates several modalities, including dynamic textures, scent, audio, and light. Two prototypes (Turtle and Tree) are demonstrated for supporting storytelling activities and mediating group conversations between children with and without visual impairment. Our goal is to provide an inclusive platform for children to interact with each other, perceive their emotions, and become more aware of how they impact others.

Touchibo Turtle is a storyteller that enacts different physical sensations of characters such as happiness, sadness, fear, or anger. Its size allows four children’s hands to physically and socially explore its nine touch zones.  The robot is hidden inside a cave made of fabric with sleeves, so children cannot have visual access to the robot and focus their attention on other senses.

We use audio, textures, wind, lights, and scents to create an immersive experience.

The background music sets the scene and overall mood; silence and lights mark scene changes and promote children’s curiosity; texture-changing skins convey different feelings; and wind enacts the breathing flow.

Scents aid in defining the surrounding environment. Future explorations for richer tactile sensations can investigate underwater setups and temperature.

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Touchibo Tree is a conversation companion that responds to group speech with textures and lights.

It becomes afraid of aggressive conversations and bored of long monologues so that children can learn the impact of their behaviors on others through the robot’s behavior.  

Using frequency, amplitude, and texture variation, the robot expresses a breathing metaphor: curious (fast breathing), boring (slow breathing), and afraid (irregular breathing). In addition, the prototype is modular, allowing customized texture combinations and stand-alone branch separation. By reacting to conversations through tangible feedback, we expect the robot to enrich the physical experience and deepen the social connection within groups.

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Meet our amazing team!


Yuhan Hu, Isabel Neto, Jin Ryu, Ali Shtarbanov, Hugo Nicolau, Ana Paiva, and Guy Hofman. 2022. Touchibo: Multimodal Texture-Changing Robotic Platform for Shared Human Experiences. In The Adjunct Publication of the 35th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST ’22 Adjunct), October 29-November 2, 2022, Bend, OR, USA. ACM, USA

and more to appear ... 

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