an object of sensitive presence
about this contribution
As part of a multidisciplinary research and a PhD project to strengthen the connection between retired couples living at home, we imagined and designed Yōkobo. It is a robot at the crossroads of a sensitive approach and a robotic trend that bridges the gap between humans (Human-Robot-Human Interactions field). As a theoretical contribution, Yōkobo is at the intersection of various concepts: behavioral objects, robjects, weak robotics, and slow technology.
Yōkobo is a trinket bowl placed in the entrance of homes. Its discreet presence expresses hospitality and celebrates small moments of everyday life, welcoming visitors and inhabitants of the house. The name comes from the contraction of “yōkoso” (welcome in Japanese) and “robot” (with French pronunciation). In addition to these functions, Yōkobo expresses the state of the home using data from connected IoT devices, combining various house parameters (such as temperature, air quality, etc.) to express the home’s “mood” through its motions. Finally, Yōkobo used in tandem with house keys, can convey a trace, a message based on motion. And a trace is a memory of the partner’s passage.
Yōkobo is resolutely innovative and disruptive. It does not sit within the lineage of the general vision of what robots are and what they can do:
- it is an object intended to be unobtrusive, stemming from ambient computing, while having an ongoing subtle presence. It does not make sounds, unlike voice assistants and the trend for using voice modality interaction. It expresses its environment only through motion and light.
- to move away from home’s companion robots and the biases they can generate through facial representation, Yōkobo has neither an anthropomorphic shape nor can talk.
- Yōkobo is intended to be made of natural materials such as ceramic, wood, or wool to break with the idea of plastic, disposable, and toy robots, and to improve its integration in everyday home life.
- as a slow technology product, understanding and integrating Yōkobo into one’s life takes time and requires accepting not having a clear, repetitive, and instantaneous response to an action. Its contribution is not measured in terms of efficiency and utility; it is the sum of different experiences with the product over time that creates the object’s meaning and value. Getting to know Yōkobo’s expressive motions is continuous and progressive. Yōkobo is an object that is understood through perception and touches the poetic sensibility of its users.
Yōkobo is a concept that puts people’s relationships at the center. It does not impose itself to propose an exclusive Human-Object relationship. It reveals the presence of the other by expressing the last impermanent trace of the other’s passage. It is an object of sensitive presence.
This work is the result of interdisciplinary research between roboticists, designers, and ergonomists. The navigation (directions and overlay) of this pan.able demonstrates the design and engineering processes, as well as the interaction modalities.
Dominique Deuff, ergonomist and designer, Orange
Gentiane Venture, roboticist, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Isabelle Milleville-Pennel, cognitive ergonomist, LS2N UMR CNRS 6004
Ioana Ocnarescu, designer, Strate Research, Strate School of Design
Enrique Coronado, roboticist, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Liz Rincon, roboticist, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Dora Garcin, experience designer, Strate School of Design & Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Corentin Aznar, product designer, Strate School of Design & Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Shohei Hagane, roboticist, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Simeon Capy, roboticist, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Pablo Osario, roboticist, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Remi Dupuis, product designer, Strate School of Design
Dino Beschi, product designer, Strate School of Design & Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Nicolas Pellen, designer, Orange
support: Orange, GV lab, LS2N UMR CNRS 6004, Strate School of Design (Strate Research)
acknowledgements: université de Nantes, université de technologie et d’agriculture de Tokyo, équipe des ateliers de Strate, Valentina Ramirez Millan
references and rights
illustration rights and references
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Original drawings, Dora Garcin, 2020. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Layer 2 (images from left to right)
Images 1 to 8: 3D-generated images, Dino Beschi, 2021. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dino Beschi, 2021.
Image 9: photograph, Dominique Deuff, 2021. Photo credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Images 10 : 3D Model, Nicolas Pellen 2021. 3D-generated images, Clément Laurenziani, 2021. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Images 11 : 3D model, Nicolas Pellen 2021. 3D-generated images, Nicolas Pellen, 2021. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Images 12 and 13: drawings, Dominique Deuff, 2021. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Images 14 and 15: 3D-generated images, Corentin Aznar, 2020. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Images 16 and 17: drawings, Corentin Aznar, 2021. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
Drawings, Dominique Deuff, 2021. Image credit and graphic transformation: Dominique Deuff, 2021.
bibliography and references
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This article is using Chicago format for its references
Deuff, Dominique, Gentiane Venture, Isabelle Milleville-Pennel, and Ioana Ocnarescu. 2023. “Yōkobo, an object of sensitive presence.” .able journal: https://able-journal.org/yokobo