In collaboration with Yves Behar's fuseproject, Embodied has unveiled its first child development-focused product: Moxie, an emotionally and socially intelligent robot companion. Moxie is a robot with machine learning technology that allows it to perceive, process and respond to natural conversation, eye contact, facial expressions and other behavior as well as recognize and recall people, places, and things.
"We're at a tipping point in the way we will interact with technology," said Paolo Pirjanian, CEO and Founder of Embodied, Inc. and former CTO of iRobot. "At Embodied, we have been rethinking and reinventing how human-machine interaction is done beyond simple verbal commands, to enable the next generation of computing, and to power a new class of machines capable of fluid social interaction. Moxie is a new type of robot that has the ability to understand and express emotions with emotive speech, believable facial expressions and body language, tapping into human psychology and neurology to create deeper bonds."
Tall enough to be of interest without being unwieldy, Moxie measures in at 387mm tall and is designed to work with children between the ages of 6-9; however, younger children can also use Moxie with some assistance. The design team took special care in collaborating with Embodied to define and balance several of the smart companion's key features including its facial expression, overall shape, color palette, and exterior materiality.
To align with the technology used to light the face and signal nuanced, complex feelings like vulnerability, interest, or concern, fuseproject created a simpler and more perceptible face without details like wrinkles and shadows. Moxie's large, friendly eyes and expressive face were critical features that were integrated into the design to protect children from excessive screen-time, help them more easily recognize certain emotions, and make the interaction experience feel all the more real.
The design team iterated and redefined the model into a body type with smoother transitions along its limbs and balanced bodily proportions consistent with and complimentary to Moxie's facial appearance. Integrating all the engineering components and technology into its frame was challenging-particularly with Moxie's detailed form designed specifically to encourage interaction and resonate with children. All its expressive and endearing features-including the ears, head/playful projection tip, speakers, and arm/hand/finger details-come together to tell an otherworldly story about Moxie as a friendly companion from 'The Global Robotics Laboratory' (G.R.L.) sent out as a robot ambassador with a mission to learn what it means to be a good friend to humans.
The fuseproject team designed the head with a slightly projected tip visible from the side profile. This form defines Moxie's playful head shape, while also giving more character and life to its personality. Moxie's uniform includes his signature profile tip (that can also double as his helmet), gloves, and triangular badge on its chest.
Moxie's ears design are an opportunity for interaction and visually signify that the smart companion can hear. Children are able to whisper secrets and communicate with Moxie through its teardrop shaped ears on the sides of its head. The ears, speaker, and microphone are the major components that allow Moxie to interact, they are designed to foster interaction while being based on Moxie's internal components and locations.
Designing and simplifying a hand shape was an interesting challenge. fuseproject designed a simplified hand with an index finger that is pointed and a thumb silhouette. This minimal approach was simpler than a fully articulated hand, while delivering visual cues for kids interaction and games. The iconic hand creates a universally recognizable signal and simple level of communication: index finger to point, indicate interest, or ask a question.
The high-performance thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) overmolded material also wraps around Moxie's hands, allowing it to point with a simple one finger gesture to play games. These design parameters and their collective interactions are important for establishing Moxie's anthropomorphism and ability to traverse uncertain sensory data in an unpredictable environment like working with children. Moxie engages with children with its entire body. It can turn 360-degrees on its base to react to its child and effortlessly bend at the neck, belly, and base.
With Moxie, children can engage in meaningful play, every day, with content informed by the best practices in child development and early childhood education. Every week is a different theme such as kindness, friendship, empathy or respect, and children are tasked to help Moxie with missions that explore human experiences, ideas, and life skills. These missions are activities that include creative unstructured play like drawing, mindfulness practice through breathing exercises and meditation, reading with Moxie, and exploring ways to be kind to others. Moxie encourages curiosity so children discover the world and people around them. All these activities help children learn and safely practice essential life skills such as turn taking, eye contact, active listening, emotion regulation, empathy, relationship management, and problem solving.
Embodied has also partnered with Encyclopaedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster to integrate Merriam-Webster's Dictionary for Children, enabling Moxie to provide age-appropriate definitions and related information to help children learn and understand the meanings of new words and concepts. This is the first of many integrations with Moxie that deliver on Encyclopaedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster's shared mission to inspire curiosity and the joy of learning.
Images: Courtesy of fuseproject