Yard Rover

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Yard Rover is a concept for a small robot that runs around the backyard. It takes pictures according to sensors configured before setting it loose in the yard. Periodically, the pictures are automatically printed in the home. We envision this as a long-term interaction, with the photos coming in once every week or few weeks.

Yard Rover encourages concurrent play among cohabitants by creating situations in which roommates, friends, and family members can collaborate to configure the robot to capture certain kinds of images. It also provides opportunities for self expression by providing its owners with photographs from which they can assemble collections, collages, and albums of their favorite photographs. Finally, Yard Rover provides its owners with new perspectives on familiar places, such as their back yard, and allows them to learn as they discover how different configurations of its sensors alter its behavior in these familiar environments.

Our assignment for this project was to investigate possible futures in emerging design spaces and leverage breakthroughs in UbiComp (ubiquitous computing) and social computing technology. Our goal was to create new rituals and inspire child-like wonder in adults.

Field Research
To begin, we visited the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum to watch how parents and children interact and discover what types of activities engaged parents and children (below). We used our observations to generate opportunity statements and brainstorm over 200 ideas.

Concept Generation
After extracting 11 concepts from our brainstorming session, we created storyboards to illustrate these concepts. A few are shown below. We showed our storyboards to an interaction designer with two children, a child psychologist running a day care center, and 10-15 of our classmates. We used these sessions to evaluate their efficacy and observe the level of interest they generated in our participants. From the feedback we received, we were able to refine and combine a few storyboards into the concept for Yard Rover.

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