A recent design project, conducted by Professor Hui Sung Lee and his team in the Department of Design at UNIST has been awarded the Robot Design Competition Award (Best Robot Design Artifact) at the 2023 Robot Design Competition. This esteemed competition took place as a side event of the 32nd IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (IEEE RO-MAN 2023).
The winning creation, named the Book Toki, is an interactive reading mate robot, designed to spark children’s interest in reading, specifically targeting 5 to 8-year-olds who are beginning their reading journey.
The team focused not only on the functionality of the robot but also on developing innovative human-robot interaction methods to actively engage children in the reading process. The design of the Book Toki incorporates a familiar animal appearance, animal-like movements, and interesting reactions to trigger curiosity. It takes the form of an adorable rabbit with highly responsive ear movements. As a child reads, the robot’s rabbit ears progressively change shape to symbolize that it is listening to the child, creating an immersive reading experience.
The Book Toki was skillfully designed and developed by Dabin Lee and Wooin Jang from the Department of Design within the laboratory of Professor Lee. Reflecting on their creation, the students expressed, “We paid careful attention to minimize any noise generated by the moving ears, ensuring it does not disrupt the reading experience. Our hope is that children develop healthy reading habits and cultivate a genuine interest in books.”
To achieve the unique ear movements, the robot’s silicone ears are designed to bend and unfold using hydraulic pressure, while its head moves up and down with the help of a linear stepping motor. This innovative interaction method, incorporating metaphorical elements, holds great potential for the enhancement of children’s engagement with reading content.
The success of the ‘Book Toki’ at the IEEE RO-MAN 2023 competition emphasizes the importance of innovative approaches in encouraging children’s reading habits. Professor Lee and his dedicated team have made a remarkable contribution to the field of human-robot interaction and early childhood education.
Meanwhile, the IEEE RO-MAN 2023 conference, organized by the International Society of Electrical and Electronics Robotics Robot Automation Committee (IEEE RAS), the Japanese Society of Robotics (RSJ), and the Korean Society of Robotics (KROS), took place from August 28 to 31 in Busan, Korea.