A reading robot designed by students from the Department of Design at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea has been awarded the Robot Design Competition Award (Best Robot Design Artifact) at the 2023 Robot Design Competition, a side event of the 32nd IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication held recently in Busan, South Korea.
The team focused not only on the functionality of the robot but also on developing innovative human–robot interaction methods to actively engage children in the reading process. The design of the so-called Book Toki incorporates a familiar animal appearance, animal-like movements and interesting reactions to trigger curiosity. It takes the form of an adorable rabbit with highly responsive ear movements. As a child reads, the robot’s rabbit ears progressively change shape to symbolise the fact that it’s listening to the child, creating an immersive reading experience.
The Book Toki was designed and developed by Dabin Lee and Wooin Jang from the Department of Design within Professor Hui Sung Lee’s laboratory. ‘We paid careful attention to minimising any noise generated by the moving ears, ensuring it does not disrupt the reading experience,’ the students said. ‘Our hope is that children develop healthy reading habits and cultivate a genuine interest in books.’
In order to achieve its unique ear movements, the robot’s silicone ears were designed to bend and unfold using hydraulic pressure, while its head moves up and down with the help of a linear stepping motor. According to the designers, the innovative interaction method, incorporating metaphorical elements, holds great potential for the enhancement of children’s engagement with reading content.