Chapter 2: A lot more labor than usual before the birth…

March 03, 2014

We set out to create Aisoy1 as a “new life form” that was sympathetic to children and adults, was not cost prohibitive, and supported the fundamentals for verbal and non-verbal natural communication with its users. We made the upfront decision to sacrifice mobility for emotional expressiveness to avoid over-complication of the design. It was a difficult choice because the whole team liked the idea of developing a mobile robot. But we all agreed that the capability of affective communication was paramount so we decided to limit its movement to that of its facial expressions. After several team discussions, we arrived at our initial design idea: a chubby little guinea pig sitting with his arms resting on its belly, relaxed and ready for conversation. With that idea in mind, we embarked on the artistic design of the character, searching for a cartoon personality. Once we were happy with the design of the character, we started to work on the mechanics. The initial design employed six small servos to allow movement for the mouth, eyelids, eyebrows, and neck (neck tilt and rotation). For the overall look, we went with the teddy bear motif. We loved the idea of ​​a traditional teddy that came to life. We wanted to have the toy designed, manufactured, and assembled in Spain and talked to established and distinguished toy companies in Ibi (Alicante province). At this point, we suffered our first disappointment as all the companies we visited deemed our vision too complex and declined to participate due to their perceived high risk of failure. This setback forced us to consider turning to China for manufacturing. Overcoming the geographical distance of 8000km and the gap between Spanish and Chinese cultures was a challenging and painstaking process. We had to provide extensive detail in the forms of sketches, explanatory documentation, videos, and so forth before they understood our vision well enough to create a prototype. After two months of collaboration, a peculiar bear arrived at our office from China. The design would have been perfect -- if our intentions were to create something that resembled a robotic alien zombie squirrel as opposed to a guinea pig. To avoid any possible emotional trauma on the part of the children opening their gifts or that of their parents, we decided to radically alter the design. The design evolved into something resembling more of a robot than an animal although we considered some hybrid approaches... Taking advantage of the refactoring opportunity, we decided to add some features that would not make sense for an animal design: an RGB light in the creature’s heart and an array of LEDs in its mouth. These elements replaced the previous mechanical solution that utilized servos in the components. Finally, in April of 2010, we concluded the design of Aisoy1. As for the design, you could say you love it or hate it, but we doubt you will be indifferent. ;)Queríamos crear Aisoy1 como una " nueva forma de vida ", que fuera simpática tanto para los niños como para los adultos, con un coste asequible, y que contara con los elementos básicos que le permitieran comunicarse de forma natural con el usuario (comunicación verbal y no verbal). Tomamos la decisión de sacrificar la movilidad en favor de la expresividad emocional para evitar un diseño complejo. Fue una decisión difícil, porque a todo el equipo le gustaba la idea de desarrollar un robot móvil . Pero todos coincidimos en que la capacidad de comunicación afectiva era de suma importancia por lo que decidimos limitar su movimiento a la de sus expresiones faciales. Tras muchas vueltas acordamos que Aisoy1 fuera una cobaya, un poco gordita, sentada con los brazos apoyados en la barriga, en posición de conversación relajada. Con esa idea en mente, nos embarcamos en el diseño artístico del personaje, y buscamos una personalidad de “dibujo animado”. Una vez estuvimos contentos con el diseño del personaje, trabajamos en la parte mecánica. El diseño inicial empleaba 6 pequeños servos para dar movimiento a boca, párpados, cejas, y cuello (inclinación y rotación de cuello). Para la “piel” apostamos por el peluche, nos encantaba la idea de un muñeco tradicional que cobra vida. Nos habíamos propuesto apoyarnos todo lo posible en la industria española, y en un primer momento contactamos con empresas de Ibi (Alicante), ciudad española con larga y reconocida tradición juguetera. Aquí sufrimos la primera decepción, ya que todas las empresas que visitamos consideraron el producto como muy complejo, y no se arriesgaron a participar, por lo que finalmente tuvimos que acudir a un fabricante en China. Es laborioso trabajar a más de 8000Km de distancia con una cultura tan diferente a la española como es la china. Tuvimos que entregar muchísimos bocetos, explicaciones, vídeos, etc. para que tuvieran la seguridad necesaria y elaborar un prototipo. Tras más de dos meses de trabajo conjunto, recibimos en la oficina un peluche muy peculiar. Si en lugar de una cobaya robótica, hubiéramos querido hacer una ardilla zombie extraterrestre robótica, el diseño habría sido perfecto. Como no queríamos arriesgarnos a que algún padre sufriera un infarto al abrir los regalos de su hijo, decidimos cambiar radicalmente el diseño y acercarnos más a la apariencia de un robot que a un animal, aunque algunas propuestas incluían híbridos entre las dos ideas. Aprovechando el cambio a robot, decidimos añadir algún elemento extra que en un animal no habría tenido sentido, como una luz rgb en el corazón y una matriz de leds en la boca, que sustituía a la solución mecánica con dos servos. Y por fin, en abril de 2010, concluímos el diseño de Aisoy1, que como se suele decir, o lo amas o lo odias, pero no deja a nadie indiferente ;)


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