Jeppe: Flash from my past


Way back in 2006-2007 I was leading the Media Window project (HD video call and immersive telepresence for mobiles, using a dedicated FPGA “USB hardware accessory”, and the new phenomenon of HD TV, with the dream that HD projection and full wall HD TV would become commonplace within 3-10 years).

That was cool and taught me very important lessons about prioritising design and engineering for user centered design (UCD), and intuitively what “affect” and “enchantment” meant even before I picked up the User Experience (UX) literature trail. (Personally, this added HCI and UCD arrows to my telecoms and protocols quiver, with smart spaces and software management along the way). However, a very real problem was that our 2-nation user studies and UCD were too realistic a sample of normal people, and so none of the Dutch and almost none of the Finnish participants had been down the purchase journey for HD TV of any size.

So we pivoted the user study (while the tech research plowed on with a bunch of firsts for mobile HD video call and USB UVC), and co-created several concepts for remote presence and video telepresence including ‘the Pet’ which started life gerbil-like and became hedgehog-like (we were visualising kids in gardens carrying around an actuated video call device). Then we spun this out and merged into another project (home phone), engaged Nokia Design, renamed the Pet “Jeppe”, and I adopted consultant-and-shepherd mode, giving over the mechanical and application design lead to my team (subsequently completely when I entered corporate and research strategy in 2008).

Just today I hunted down the web footprint of Jeppe to compare with some more recent DIY two-wheeled robots and it brought the whole saga back to life.

Here’s more on Jeppe:

And even theRegister news article:

And the acting debuts of some of my old colleagues (keep the day jobs guys:)

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Join in our robot appearance study!01_justImages

We want you to join in our study on the appearance of robots that might assist us in the future! Just use this link:

It should take around 15-20 minutes. This is part of our work at Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) to answer questions we have about people’s willingness to use robots as assistants at home or in the workplace, and how a robot’s appearance can change expectations.

Share and distribute our invite as widely as you like.

If you’re more at home with Suomalainen or Français, use one of these links:

For questions in all 3 languages you can drop us an email at – or just message me directly through wordpress.

Thank you for being amazing and helping us!

Rod, Riikka and Marion
TAMK Social Robotics

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ResearchGate for mining social media

ImageEver since promising results in our pilot study Introducing game and playful experiences to other application domains through personality and motivation models, mining social media (facebook in particular) has been on my agenda. I haven’t gotten round to it yet, but some of the recent threads on the excellent ResearchGate hint that this field might be maturing enough to be worth a fresh look. Let’s see…

Are there any proven “feature extraction” techniques and open software for summarising facebook and other social media personas?

What tools would you recommend for statistically assessing and visualizing online social networks?

Social Networks data mining

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Let Many Bots Bloom!

Having used bipedal, research and industrial robots, we realised that a big part of the barrier to entry to consumer and mass market healthcare was due to the cost and reliability of many actuators (motors, degrees of freedom etc.) and high quality actuators in those bots. So some time ago, over a coffee far far away, we got the idea that if only we could get extremely expressive and functional robots without so many actuators, we might be onto something. Naturally there’s an obvious area where this has been done before and continues to be done: in toys. But here we were interested in some high level design concepts where the primary goal is expression rather than play.

So we worked with students to create DASR: Deep Avatars Simple Robots. What you seen in the video are the portion of the many sketchbook concepts that were built in the Unity3D engine. With simple actuations, movement to music and kinect input, this was a pretty damn versatile proof of concept. This is mostly for inspiration and fun. We’re not planning to build these in plastic and metal (or blood and chrome), not yet anyway!

And for completeness, here’s the brief that kicked that project off…

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EmoSPARK | First A.I. Console

EmoSPARK | First A.I. Console

An interesting emotion capture approach. And soon to be off-the-shelf too.

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Something we’ve been playing with in the background – a simple two wheel (gyro-stablised reverse pendulum arduino powered) platform for moving robot apps about. It’s not finished but the video is a great way to see how modifying the values of a PID control loop affects stability of such a device.

Want to see the amazing idea that this originated from? Checkout the Extreme Fingers brief on slideshare:


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Dubious: UK public believes robots … shouldn’t care for young or elderly

A survey performed to test views of the general public about robots has an interesting “finding” about robots: don’t use them to care for children or the elderly – they are made for killing people so let them get on with it! Okay, that’s slightly exaggerated but probably less far from the study report than the study report is from finding a proper answer to any research questions on this subject. It’s fun to talk about robots as machines that will take over the world – not a new phenomenon. But there’s an interesting nugget hidden in the findings, or at least a hypothesis revealed worthy of testing…

A general view is that robotic applications (or any non-mainstream tech or innovation) should be for “the other” and not for my social group. They should perform their military tasks upon “the other” but not perform tasks upon my “in group”.

I’m not claiming that this hypothesis is exactly right, but there’s clearly group psychology at play in people’s responses about these “unknown entities” (not so much unknown, as misunderstood due to most “education” coming from fiction, especially science-fiction).

And to state the obvious (in case you think I missed it), the survey does highlight two already obvious and very useful insights: do not attempt to market robotics to the mass market for human caring applications <as there are no generally known and liked special applications in niche segments that have could the mass imagination yet>, and if you are going to market such a product to such a market be prepared to educate around “robots serve skynet, not mankind” early attitudes, or else select your target group to avoid that wasted effort and get references/testimonials that make it unnecessary to educate subsequent niches.

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