hamish tennent

Two people at two desks facing away from each other. On each desk is a robot. one person is manipulating a robot and seeing their movement mimicked in the other robot.
Puppeteering system showing how a researcher (left) can prototype movements with a user (right).

Spyderbot Social Robot

Hardware and UX Design Lead

In 2018 I had been working in and around robotics research labs for 3+ years, helping design and build bespoke robots for researchers to test specific psychological effects in their respective domains. While at Cornell I initiated and lead a team of 5 engineers and designers to design, build, and open source a robot to provide both to the lab I was in and the many labs we collaborated with. This robot was to be a tool used by the researchers and needed to accommodate a wide variety of social contexts; such as language learning or group problem solving.

Key Methods: Interactive Hardware Design. Project Management. Prototyping.
Research paper
Robot on a table in a living room setting
Young man interacting with a table top robot, both are looking at one another.
Project Information

A key problem we solved was to remove barriers non-engineers in the robotics research field faced when trying to create software+hardware to make their robots perform expressive motion in their studies. Drawing from work I had done with improv performers and dance choreographers, the methodology we created allowed people to puppeteer, record and replay movement using a dummy robot. This greatly reduced the need for complex software engineering to create expressive motion. A researcher could move the robot how they would want it to move in their study, record and replay it in the same manner every time they ran their experiment. This methodology was novel in the field and was published in a top scientific journal, where it has been cited by other researchers and applied to the development of their robots.

Split image, one of a participant interacting with a robot, the other is the researcher in another room manipulating a dummy robot and watching their movements in the other room through a live camera setup.
System in use, with researcher in another room from participant. Researcher is able to embody the robot, enact and record movements for replay later.