We think that in the future, exertion activities will turn into a new experience, involving interactions with autonomous embodied systems. Our dream is Joggobot, an autonomous flying quadcopter that exemplifies our thinking about the combination of robotics as well as physical exercise.
You use Joggobot to ask the question how (and if) robots should support us when exercising. As such, Joggobot assists us in order to understand the interactions between a person and a robot. Our Joggobot is able to track the location of the jogger via an built-in camera and tag detection software. This software turns the previously human-controlled quadcopter into an autonomous flying robot that reacts to the jogger’s actions. We ask questions such as “Should the robot be a pacemaker for the jogger? If so, can this be motivating? Or should the Joggobot be more like a dog, reacting to the jogger like a pet companion? How does this affect the interaction, and in particular, the exercise experience for the jogger? Will joggers run faster or longer because of the robot? And, maybe more importantly, will the jog be more engaging?”
We believe robots have been so far mainly investigated from a perspective where they do tasks for us we do not want to do: vacuuming floors, going into war zones, and cleaning up nuclear power plants. With Joggobot, we want to propose the idea of robots as companions for physical activity. We believe this is a promising approach, as both robots and exercise are embodied, by which we mean they are both heavily body-focused. We think that this match in body-focus can lead to more engaging experiences. For example, compare Joggobot to running with one of the many mobile phone apps that support joggers. Such an app does not know about the shape and size of the phone (its “body”), nor does the shape and size of the mobile phone knows (or does) anything about the app or the exercise. Therefore the app is not very body-focused or embodied. Jogging on the other hand is all about the body. And so is Joggobot: it’s a physical device that acts and reacts to its environment and the jogger. Both the Joggobot and the jogger are affected by environmental conditions such as wind. Both’s performance is affected by rain. Both get “tired” (Joggobot’s speed diminishes with low battery) and with both you can hear if they invest physical effort: the jogger puffs, the Joggobot whirrs. We believe the match in focus on the body can facilitate more engaging experiences, for example joggers might “relate” more to Joggobot because it has a body, they might even develop empathy because both have a body-focused experience. This is important, as we know from sports research that social factors are key when it comes to exercising.
We hope our project will enhance our understanding of why we play (and hence why we jog and therefore why we do not jog enough), further the experience of jogging and promote the consideration of robots supporting exertion activities.
In the Exertion Games Lab, we investigate the intersection between technology, the body and play, we call this coming together Exertion Games. Joggobot is a form of an exertion game, as jogging is play (we are not jogging to get from A to B, but for the experience of jogging), and the Joggobot represents technology that is part of that experience. Joggobot as well as all of our other exertion games are inspirational pieces to inspire industry of what the future can and should be like in 10 years time.
Joggobot by Eberhard Gräther and Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller, with help from Wouter Walmink, Chad Toprak, Josh Platt, Conor O’Kane, Jennifer Lade, Jonathan Duckworth, Wendy Ju and Wolfgang Gräther. Video by Eric Dittloff.
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