DrawBot - Visualizing Collaboration
Technical Exploration - 6 weeks

DrawBot invites two players to work together in order to create shapes on the whiteboard surface. Through collaboration, a visualization of their shared(or not) goal can be realized.

Assignment: Create an experience based on an Arduino exploration.

Initial Interest
Our primary focus for this project was to produce an experience that encouraged collaboration. This experience would produce a singular, tangible result that reflected how well the collaboration went.

We did initial research on a variety of interactive art exhibits and decided that our setting would be an open space where strangers or friends could meet to partake in the art. We took inspiration from an Etch a Sketch where one person controls the motion in the horizontal direction and the other in the vertical direction. We looked at precedent work of x,y plotters and considered mounting our writing utensil on one. We had to decide between a plotter, an etch-a-sketch wheel input, or free form drawing. We settled on having a drawing robot that can move freely but is still controlled by two inputs. The robot becomes the painter and facilitates user interaction. They now have a clear common goal, to get drawBot to draw what they want.

Our first prototype used tracking sensors as the input, one for each wheel. If a sensor was covered the corresponding wheel would move forward otherwise it would be still.

After determining the functionalities of controlling the robot through tracking sensors, we needed to define a user scenario. In doing so, we would be able to make decisions pertaining to the form and interaction experience.

Through discussions on where this interaction should be occurring — we defined a scenario that intended to bring two strangers together in order to visually ‘plot interaction’.

What sort of movement quality would this have if each wheel was controlled independently? From this and our initial goal, we transitioned from tracking sensors to use sonar sensors that were connected via bluetooth to the motor. We decided to not have any wires as this would distract from the ‘character’ of the DrawBot. In doing so, the two users could focus on how their physical movement would translate to the overall moving of the DrawBot.

The decision to use a whiteboard as our drawing surface came from experimentation on an acrylic piece. At first, it was very important to us that the users be able to take their work away with them so we wanted to use a big sheet of paper. However, there are two users and only one drawing, so who would take it? Additionally, we decided it was more important to focus on the moment of collaboration rather than the result of it.

DrawBot, itself is a friendly robot form that invites the users to assist it in drawing shapes. Rather than personifying the character, we went with a more neutral but inviting robot. Due to limitations in time and accessibility to resources, we converted the cover into a removable surface. This allowed us to make changes to the hardware as we worked.

Final Direction
Our project takes movement from two inputs and translates it into a drawing. Our drawBot has a dry erase marker attached to the front and moves on an elevated whiteboard surface. Its motion is controlled by two distance sensors on either side of the whiteboard. The idea is for two users to be on either side of the board each controlling one wheel of the robot. The wheel will go forwards, stop, or backwards corresponding to how close the user is to the sensor. We are interested in how people interact and work together to create one fluid picture.

In collaboration with Talie Massachi.

Designing Humanity Centered Robotics with Ian Gonsher - Brown University, Fall 2019

Contact me at jillianmcai@gmail.com