Why every robot needs a spiffy hat

By A. Tarantola | Engadget

[EXCERPT] First developed more than 100,000 years ago, clothing is one of humanity’s earliest — and most culturally significant — inventions, providing wearers not just protection from the environment and elements but also signifying social status, membership in a community and their role within that group. As robots increasingly move out of labs, off of factory floors and into our everyday lives, a similar garment revolution could soon be upon us once again, according to a new research study out of New York’s Cornell University.

“We believe that robot clothes present an underutilized opportunity for the field of designing interactive systems,” the team argues in What Robots Need From Clothing, which was submitted to the In Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2021. “Clothes can help robots become better robots — by helping them be useful in a new, wider array of contexts, or better adapt and function in the contexts they are already in.”

“I started by looking at how different materials would move on robots and thinking about the readability of that motion — like, what is the robot’s intention based on the way materials move on the robot,” Natalie Friedman, a PhD student at Cornell Tech and lead author on the paper, explained to Engadget. “From there, I started thinking about all the different social functions that clothes have for people and how that could influence how the robot is viewed.”

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