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Canvases for the co-design of social robots
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Social Robot Co-Design Canvases

Social Robot Co-Design Canvases free version by Minja Axelsson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Sponsored by Futurice.

What are the canvases used for?

The canvases can be used by multidisciplinary teams to design social robots. They can also be used to learn about the design of social robots, and to analyze and compare existing social robots.

The canvases provide the following benefits:

  • Enabling co-design with a tangible tool
  • Involving users and experts of different domains by bringing a common language into robotics
  • Structuring the design process into logical parts
  • Making design decisions explicit, which helps question assumptions
  • Enabling ethical considerations before building a solution

How do they work?

You can print the canvases as A3 or A1 sizes. Refer to the "robot_canvases_instructions_v2.pdf" file to see which canvases you should use.

The canvases follow the process of problem space, design guidelines, and solution space. This is illustrated in the file "design_framework.pdf".

The canvases follow the process of first defining the problem space, after which design guidelines are created, which project the qualities of the problem space onto the solution space, in order to ensure purposeful design. To see a brief review of this design framework, please refer to the file "design_framework.pdf".

The canvases can be used to think about social robot design problems, to design an entirely new robot, or to modify or select an existing robot to answer a particular problem.

For the instructions on how to use the canvases, please refer to the file "robot_canvas_instructions.pdf".

The canvases are grouped as follows:

Phase 1: Problem space

  • 01: Problem space of designing a robot
  • 02: Ethical considerations of a robot

Phase 2: Design guidelines

  • 03: Design guidelines of the robot

Phase 3: Solution space

Path 1:

If the design team only needs a quick draft of the robot, use this path.


  • 04: MVP of the robot

Path 2:

When designing your final product, use these canvases:

  • 05: Environment of the robot
  • 06: Form of the robot
  • 07: Interaction of the robot
  • 08: Behaviour of the robot

Additionally, the following canvases can be used to design more in-depth.

  • 09: Service ecosystem of the robot
  • 10: Experience flow of the robot

Structuring design sessions

There are two methods:

  • Individuals have 10 minutes to consider their own thoughts on the canvas first, after which they can collaborate and discuss their thoughts for 10-20 minutes.
  • Teams can collaborate simultaneously for 20-30 minutes per canvas.

Choosing the method depends on the time slot available. In order for introverts to be able to participate more easily, the first method is preferred.

During the building of the robot, the canvases should be used in an iterative manner. Each iteration of the build should be evaluated with users and experts, and the design refined based on feedback.

The example canvases

The example canvases (file "robot_canvases_v2_examples_oodi_library_robot.pdf") feature a robot designed to guide users to books and book categories in Helsinki's (Finland's capital city) central library Oodi.

The robot was designed together with Oodi's librarians, Oodi's customers, and Futurice's roboticists. The canvases are filled in based on the results of a co-design workshop, with small edits done to correspond to the current design of the robot. The robot is being pilot tested at Oodi library in Fall 2019.

You can read more about the library robot and the project here.

How have the canvases been used before?

The canvases have been used by multidisciplinary teams, to design e.g. a robot that guides people to books at a library, and a robot that played games with teenagers online. Both robots were designed by multidisciplinary teams, consisting of roboticist, domain experts, and future users of the robots.

The canvases have also been used in social robot design workshops, where participants learn about social robots.

Some feedback from people who have used the canvases:

  • "Useful to approach the problem from different angles, using each group member's different skills to think of new ideas and concepts"
  • "The canvas helps to enhance one's own imagination, bringing forth ideas that the group would have probably not come up with otherwise."
  • "The canvases helped keep to the process, helped the group stay focused."
  • "I enjoyed thinking about the ethical questions, it's good to think about them. In a way it reveals some of my own biases."
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