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Aarhus, Denmark

Exploring Human-Robot Collaboration in Architectural Design Processes

Exploring Human-Robot Collaboration in Architectural Design Processes Category Tangible Interfaces, In-air Gestural Interface, Interaction Design Date...



Exploring Human-Robot Collaboration in Architectural Design Processes


Tangible Interfaces, In-air Gestural Interface, Interaction Design


Autumn-Winter, 2015-2016


Exploratory Prototypes


Exploring Human-Robot Collaboration in Architectural Design Processes (Master's Thesis)

Project Members

Søren Pedersen
GK Picture
DFAB Picture


Looking at the use of robots in creative domains, the field of Architecture have embraced robots as a tool for exploration and fabrication in their design process. Current practice involves the use of parametric design tools and offline programming of the robots, which is time-consuming and creates a high entry barrier for architects.

During observations into the use of robots in the field of architecture, numerous and severe limitations was observed in the way that architects interact and use these highly complex machines in their design process. The architect’s use of parametric design tools created a disconnect between the physical world and digital world, reducing the creativity of their craft to the digital world.

Using a research-through-design approach, we created several exploratory prototypes that investigated how the disconnect between the physical world and the digital world could be reduced.

The exploratory prototypes were guided by an initial framework using dimensions based on identified key aspects within human-robot collaboration and human-robot interaction. We looked at how a tangible interface and in-air gestural interface could be designed to support this interaction.

We sawhow behaviours affect the sharing of control between robot and human and how this could augment the collaboration and in turn, the creative process. Throughout the interaction between the two, the roles of the robot can shift based on the level of autonomy and how the robot intervenes or supports the architect based on a shared goal. We see that a in-air gestural interface and a tangible interface reduces the disconnect between the physical and digital world; effectively reducing the overhead between iterations within the exploration stage of the design process. The thesis serves as an introduction to human-robot collaboration in creative processes, taking the field of architecture and form exploration as the basis for the study and reveals future potentials for human-robot teams.


Industrial robots are notoriously hard to interface with, as they are usually pre-programmed with a set of movements to perform indefinitely. We utilised (and later contributed to) the JOpenShowVar middleware for KUKA controllers, which allowed us to program and design java-based interfaces.

Below, a video showing an earlier iteration of one of our exploratory prototypes, using the Leap Motion controller for developing an in-air gestural interface.


Preliminary Robot Prototype

We built a small robot using the open-source MeArm Robot design blueprint. The MeArm robot is built out of laser cut components made from 3mm thick white acrylic and is hold together by interlocking components and machine screws. The robot uses four TowerPro SG90 micro servos for actuation. On the physical level, the servos are controllable by an Arduino Uno R3  and uses an external DC power supply. On the PC, our Arduino controller software is based on Decoded.com’s leap-arduino project that utilizes the JavaScript Arduino programming framework, Johnny Five, for communicating with the StandardFirmata firmware on the Arduino Uno – the controller software has been written in JavaScript for Nodejs.

KUKA KR6 R700 sixx

KUKA KR6 R700 sixx Robot

For evaluation of our conceptual interface prototypes, we rented a KUKA KR6 R700 sixx robot and built a work-platform of two-by-fours and a black MDF surface that would serve as a shared workplace for both robot and human. The robot has a max. payload of 6 kgs at the mounting flange, on which we mounted different 3D printed end-effectors (i.e. tools).

Roles of the Robot

The Robot as a Tool

When the robot takes on the role of a tool, it goes a step further than traditional Cartesian robots, such as CNC routers and lasercutters, by allowing the architect to directly manipulate the positioning of the robot through a tangible block interface or an in-air gestural interface.

The Robot as a Supervisor

The robot can take on a supervisor role, when working together with the architect, by overseeing the actions of the architect – if he or she is trying to do something that does not contribute to reaching an overall goal, such as hammering the end-effector into the table, the robot will take over some aspect of the positioning to avoid this.

The Robot as a Peer

Finally, the robot can take on a more peer-like role along side the architect, by dividing the control between robot and architect equally, such as leaving X,Y,Z positioning to the robot and the rotation of tool to the architect (seen below).


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