Our paper on exploring biomorphic aesthetics in the design of soft personal robots is published in the International Journal of Social Robotics. Congratulations to Mads!

Abstract: The flexible bodies of soft robots provide exciting new possibilities for interaction with humans. In this paper, we propose a novel design paradigm, Soft Biomorphism, for soft robots centered on the idea of amplifying their inherent biomorphic aesthetic qualities and activating these as affordances for human interaction. Following this approach, we developed a set of biomorphic soft robotic prototypes and conducted two studies to understand the effects of biomorphic design aesthetics on people’s impressions of these prototypes. Based on qualitative data collected through five workshop sessions, the first exploratory study (n = 10) sought to investigate the envisioned uses and types of interactions that prototypes elicited within the context of personal robots. We found that various uses were considered and that most participants associated the biomorphic aesthetic design with soft robots contributing to emotional and physical well-being. Building on these results, we conducted a second study (n = 32) to investigate if soft robots with enhanced biomorphic qualities are perceived as more appealing and appropriate for physical human–robot interaction aimed at supporting well-being. We did not find any statistically significant preference for biomorphic soft robots. However, we found statistically significant differences in appeal ratings post-interaction for some prototypes, suggesting that physical interaction with soft robots can impact the perceived appeal. Based on our findings, we highlight key issues to bear in mind when considering biomorphic aesthetics in soft personal robot designs and provide tentative design recommendations to combine biomorphic and geometric elements and align visual appearance, tactility, and movement in future robot designs.

Christiansen M.B, Rafsanjani A., Jørgensen J. (2023) “It brings the good vibes”: Exploring biomorphic aesthetics in the design of soft personal robots, International Journal of Social Robotics.