Oppo - Helping Hand Robot
We helped Oppo envision the future of home robotics for older adults with a multi-talented robot called Xiaobu. We focused on adding real utility with a simple modular hand and keeping people connected when technology and long distances to family & friends can be isolating. Xiaobu can communicate with it's expressive face and body language which we hope elevate it from just another appliance to a member of the family.
The aim of the project was not only to develop a concept but to build and demonstrate an interactive robot at Oppo's 2022 Innoday conference.
One way we framed the problem was to ask - 'What's the next evolution of the smart home assistant?'. What kind of product bridges the gap between today's smart home displays and the dream of fully capable humanoid robots in the home.
In the past, robot personalities have been limited to 2D eyes on a black display and when UI elements invariably disrupt the interaction it can feel very inauthentic.
We wanted Xiaobu to feel like a trustworthy companion so we made a clear distinction between the face and the functional display. In addition we added movement at the waist and shoulder so Xiaobu can communicate more naturally with simple gestures and body language.
One of Xiaobu's key features is an interchangeable hand module which can be automatically swapped at the base station. This means that among other things Xiaobu can help keep you on schedule with notifications you can't miss, and make tricky tasks such as reading impossibly small text a breeze.
In emergency situations Xiaobu really shines with the ability to fetch critical items stored in the base station. And at the end of the day Xiaobu knows how to keep you or your pets entertained.
We initially presented four major directions to Oppo, communicated through rough physical prototypes and sketches. After the first stage of the project we collectively decided to focus on the helping hand concept with the aim of introducing more fulfilling physical interaction to home robots.
Soft touchable materials were chosen for most of Xiaobu's body. The fabric surface conveniently conceals speaker and microphone holes and distances Xiaobu from traditionally cold and unfriendly task-based robots.
A very early engineering prototype was built to demonstrate Oppo's voice assistant technology and vision at their annual Innoday conference in 2022. The concept is still in its infancy but we hope it's the first step in bringing more useful and characterful robots into the home.
Barney Mason, Yumian Deng, Feng Wei,
Kaihuang Chen, Sujie Lin, Yusen Wang.