By Ken Nakagaki, Joanne Leong, Jordan L Tappa, Joao Wilbert, and Hiroshi Ishii
Project HERMITS explores a way to greatly advance the versatility of Robotic Tangible Interfaces. Inspired by hermit crabs, we designed a modular system for table-top wheeled robots to dock to passive attachment modules, defined as "mechanical shells." Different types of mechanical shells can uniquely extend and convert the motion of robots with embedded mechanisms, so that, as a whole architecture, the system can offer a variety of interactive functionality by self-reconfiguration. We envision this novel interactive architecture to bring a rich application space including physical space organization, digital data physicalization, and entertainment and storytelling systems.
The general approach in HERMITS expands how physical interfaces and computers in our daily life can adapt and reconfigure for user interactions with passive attachments. We are in the age where robotic systems are emerging in our living space (e.g. robotic vacuum cleaner, drones). The idea presented in HERMITS has greater implications beyond our prototype, where everyday robotic systems may gain a significant amount of functionality, expressivity, and interactivity by switching mechanical shells.