Bradley Van Galen
Idea Generation & Sketches
Led Primary Research
Lead Designer & Engineer
Our team was challenged to design a robot prototype that served the needs of a user group. We chose to tackle stress management in college students.
StressX is a robotic stuffed lion designed to console college students during stressful times. The cute lion helps to distract individuals during stressful situations, providing a smile and comfort, thereby reducing stress at that moment.
Research & Results
Our team conducted interviews and surveys of college students from various universities. Questions were focused on stress with regard to the cause, such as certain colors or objects, and how individuals relieved their stress. Besides questions centered around stress, we also asked participants about their experiences and perceptions of robots. Specifically, we asked if individuals would be comfortable using a robot to help relieve their stress.
We noticed that the majority of people interviewed were seeking solace to relieve their stress. Although most people questioned had never interacted with a robot, many students were in favor of using a robot for comfort.
Idea Generation & Iterations
Based on studies correlating feelings of happiness and reduced blood pressure, we began generating ideas about how a robot could help people reduce their stress. Our research showed that individuals prefered positive animal representations. For this reason, we decided to focus on our development on a relatable character: a stuffed animal robot. Our initial idea was a snake/bug-like animal, which allowed for motors and sensors to move in a way that represented the animal snuggling with an individual.
User testing influenced the iteration of the snake/bug-like animal. Based on user responses, we decided to develop an animal with which people did not have a negative association. A lion was chosen as most people have not personally interacted with a lion and therefore do not have a personalized idea about how a lion would behave.
Our prototype was a stuffed robotic lion that moved both its head and tail when pet or hugged. Inside the mane of the lion were six flex sensors and two servo motors connected to an Arduino Uno. As one of the flex sensors was triggered a signal was transmitted to the Arduino Uno, which sent another signal to both the servo motor in the head and tail. Code was written to move each motor randomly depending on which of the six sensors were triggered. The movement was designed to create a connection between the person and the robot. The neutral color and non-offensive appearance made it perfect to be our prototype.
...importance of simplicity as this was my first hardware project. Originally our robot was designed with half a dozen features, but during user testing I noticed that users do not want something overly complex. I realized that having a few features that work well is better than having many features that work in an average way.