Vyo Social Robot for the Smart Home

Vyo is a personal assistant serving as a centralized interface for smart home devices. With both social robotics and smart homes on the brink of market feasibility, Vyo offers an alternative to the more common touch-screen and voice-control interfaces. Vyo’s design is that of a peripheral robot, straddling the boundary between home appliance and social presence. Users interact with the device using physical icons and quiet gestures, promoting the domestic sense of home technology.

Collaborators: Oren Zuckerman and Park Sung (PIs); Michal Luria and Benny Megidish (RAs); Rob Aimi, Paul Osman, Maayan Pollack ,and Leor Alon.

Vyo is a collaboration between IDC Herzliya, Cornell University and  the SK Telecom Future Technologies Lab

Favorite Press Quotes //  Related papers: Ro-Man 2016


Design Process

Many of the suggested interface solutions for smart homes are split between voice control and touch screens, betraying the “domestic” aspect of home technology. It is eery to have to speak to your walls or into space, and we didn’t want to add another bright glass square for you to touch at home. A social robot can offer a very different kind of relationship with your home and domestic technology.

That’s when the idea came up to make Vyo ride the brink between an “investigative tool”, like a “microscope into your home” and a social presence. The social presence should be quiet, peripheral, and respectful (like a butler) and not quirky and playful, as it is representing the wellbeing of your home.

Most importantly, though, we wanted the user to be in control and the robot to recede into being a “lens” for the user to operate on, that’s why we took the “microscope”-like route, where you place objects of interest under the lens to get more information. As a result, the screen is not the main interface component, but is just revealed when the robot bows down and offers it to you. An additional “physical pun” was that you could look into the robot’s thought process when you do this.

Finally, the connection between social robotics and tangible user interfaces (like the physical icons) has never been suggested, we wanted to offer that relationship as a new HCI approach. Tangible icons representing information offer several interaction benefits such as quick overview of the status with a short glance, bimanual / simultaneous operation (you could swipe off all the icons in a hurry, to turn all the devices off), and fine motor control.

We were also inspired by domestic rituals, like placing your keys on a bowl by the entrance. Furthermore, the “giving” of objects traditionally is associated with “passing responsibility”. This was another novel interaction paradigm between humans and robots. You literally “give” the robot the task. Finally, placing things is a very democratic interface, for example for populations who would have a harder time navigating a complex on-screen menu or a voice interface.