A Personal Electronic Teller of Stories

At the University of Maryland, we have been developing new robotic pets (see pictures above) that can help kids tell stories about how they feel. With thess robot, kids can build any animal they want by putting together the special robotic animal parts (dog paws, wings, horns, and more). After the animal is built, kids can tell stories with the "My PETS" software, giving their robot emotions and behaviors. We developed our first prototypes in 1998 and have been working on new versions ever since. Below is a description of how kids and adults worked together to make it all happen.

Our Research...

We started our research in March, 1998 by looking at robots in our own robot lab here at the University of Maryland. We saw the great things they did and the kinds of animals they reminded us of. After our visit, we wrote down all the things we liked about the robots (they could move, sense like a bat, be like an animal) and all the things we thought that we could work on (they don't look like animals, you can see their brains, it's hard to tell them what to do).

After our visit, we made some prototypes using participatory design. We built some robots that didn't move out of feathers, socks, clay and more. From these prototypes our partners in the robot lab started working on some real robots. We also went to the zoo, to think more about how real animals look and move. We took notes and pictures for our research.


Our Design Teams...

At the beginning of August, 1998 we formed 3 design teams: the skeleton group, and the skins and sensors group and the software group . Each team had 2 adults and 2 kids who focused on one part of making the robot. For 2 weeks, we worked together for 8 hours a day. At the start and end of each day all the teams met together to talk about what each team was doing. There were many times we had to change things in one group because of a great idea another group had. At the end of the two weeks we presented our first prototype to our colleagues and friends in the lab. Ever since then, we have been developing new versions of PETS.  At CHI'99 we presented PETS 2 in paper and panel presentations. And more recently we were honored by being named "Cool Robot of the Week" from the NASA Space Telerobotics Program.

The lab we belong to:
The Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL)

The Institute we belong to:

University of Maryland's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS)

Back to our Design Team Page