• January 19, 2016
  • 0

Design Skills for HRI

Call for Participation


HRI 2016 Tutorial—Design Skills for HRI

Full Day Tutorial on Mon 7 March 2016


Website: http://designskills.stanford.edu/


Design is an increasingly important part of HRI, in the design of robots themselves, the interactions between humans and robots, and the conduct of research. Its methods usually build upon observation, sketching, prototyping and improvisation.



This tutorial is a hands-on introduction to human-centered design fundamentals and techniques, intended for researchers with a variety of backgrounds, particularly those with little or no prior experience in design. Topics include:

  • Needfinding as a means to address research questions such as: who will benefit from the outcome of this work, who will be study participants, do they have particular needs that can serve as measures of success.
  • Design sketching, including tools and materials, line quality, and different ways to represent objects (in 2D and 3D), people, and their interaction over time through storyboards. Design sketching is a way to develop ideas with oneself, and quickly build upon, and communicate, ideas with colleagues.
  • Rapid prototyping as a way to explore alternatives prior to developing expensive or time-consuming technologies, focusing on lightweight paper prototypes.
  • Improvisation techniques, such as puppeteering and embodied improvisation, as a way to prototype motion, action and interaction.


Topics 3 and 4 will be developed through a tabletop paper robot project, which each participant will build based on his or her own design. The robot will not be mechanically actuated, due to time and venue constraints: rather, it will be a quick and inexpensive platform to demonstrate and practice prototyping and improvisation.


Content is presented as short talks, follow-along demonstrations and hands-on activities, where participants are encouraged to share their progress and exchange ideas with each other.



The tutorial is intended for researchers interested in design as a tool for developing technology and/or conducting research. The tutorial requires no background in design, sketching or prototyping, only a willingness to develop and exercise new or distant skills.


We anticipate that those who will most benefit will include: engineers developing robots for use in upcoming studies, social scientists working with engineers designing robot interactions, researchers designing experiments that address the needs of particular user groups, and programmers seeking to parameterize robot motion or learn the expressive possibilities of existing behaviors.


Schedule (Tentative)

  • Introduction to needfinding for researchers: 60 min + break
    • Understanding users’ needs
    • Observation and interpretation
  • Design sketching and interaction storyboarding: 90 min
    • Sketching materials, line quality, warm-up
    • Representing objects and people in 2D and 3D
    • Storyboards: showing action and interaction
  • Lunch: 60 min
  • Rough and rapid physical prototyping: 90 min + break
    • Prototyping materials, tools and techniques
    • Paper robot activity: build your robot
  • Improvisation and Wizard-of-Oz: 60 min
    • Improvisation exercises, puppeteering, Laban
    • Paper robot activity: wizard your robot


Teaching Team

  • David Sirkin is a Lecturer in EE and Research Associate in ME at Stanford. He teaches interactive device design and user-centered design methods, and conducts research on the role of movement in interactions with expressive everyday (robotic) objects.
  • Nik Martelaro is a PhD candidate at Stanford’s Center for Design Research, where he teaches rapid prototyping and mechatronics. His research includes tools to support interaction design, including the Needfinding Machine.
  • Heather Knight is a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon and founder of Marilyn Monrobot, which features comedy performances by Data the Robot and an annual Robot Film Festival. Her research interests include HRI, non-verbal machine communications and non-anthropomorphic social robots.
  • Mishel Johns is a PhD candidate at Stanford’s Center for Design Research. His research interests include human-machine interaction (HMI), especially for driver collaboration with autonomous vehicles, and wizarding as a prototyping methodology.
  • Hamish Tennent is a recent MFA in design at the California College of the Arts, and works to bring together the world of traditional 3D design and user experience (UX) storytelling.


Program Advisors

  • Guy Hoffman is an Assistant Professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering at  Cornell University.
  • Wendy Ju is the Executive Director for Interaction Design Research at the Center for Design Research at Stanford, and Associate Professor at the Graduate Program in Design at the California College of the Arts.
  • Bilge Mutlu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Leila Takayama is a Senior User Experience Researcher at Google[x].