Movement Design.

Designing Robots For Everyday Use. 2016-

Ongoing work into the design of expressive movement from my current research projects. 

A core foundational concept of the human-robot interaction (HRI) community is that an object that is physically actuated can engage with people in a social manner, more than a piece furniture and less than an animal. In the course of my time in this community I’ve been asked to design behaviours and movements for these devices, and I think they pose a unique challenge that sits at the intersection of multiple design disciplines. The movements themselves as well as the method to create them is the focus of this work.

On one end is a social robot I am designing and building to be used across multiple research areas in my lab at Cornell (Robots in Groups lab). On the other is work from my time at Stanford which resulted in the paper I recently published in a top journal (IMWUT/Ubicomp). The paper proposes a new method to engage stakeholders from different disciplines in a collaborative design process to explore embodied and expressive movement of non-anthropomorphic robots.

Animation Sketches (2017).

How to explore, test and design expressive movements for physically actuated objects such as robots is still an unsolved problem. With a background in industrial and interaction design I believe I have the skills to contribute meaningfully to this broader conversation and have been developing new processes. These are processes and methods that I’m testing in my own work (above), and as I teach undergraduate and graduate level courses at Cornell.

How best to iterate and prototype through motion concepts is important for unlocking the exploratory and iterative nature that I think underpins good design. Often I employ a mixture of sketching, physical prototyping and 3d animation. Sketching allows me to quickly move things around the page and iterate fast. The physical prototyping I do often uses Arduino, Raspberry Pi's and various servo/stepper motor setups. I think this is the best way of testing how a movement 'feels' to a person. 3D animation using tools such as After Effects and Cinema 4D/Maya allows the testing of the minutia of movement, which is often the difference in something moving 'happily' or 'excitedly' or 'aggressively'.

See more details about this project here. Contact me for the password at:
ht (at)

Robots In Groups Lab homepage.

“Character Actor: Design And Evaluation Of Expressive Robot Car Seat Motion”
H. Tennent, D. Moore, W. Ju. Awaiting publication at IMWUT December 2017.

Part of this process I have been developing is being published in the above paper “Character Actor: Design and Evaluation Of Expressive Robot Car Seat Motion” and becomes part of a scientific body of knowledge that is actively shaping how these devices are being design and built in industry, schools and research labs.

© Hamish Tennent 2017