ROBOT DESIGN: The Evolution of a Head
How the psychology of shapes and a non-threatening philosophy influenced IRI robot head designs.
Back in 1975, the first International Robotics robot head (that first robot would be named, “Robot SICO” – a private anagram) was built with large elliptical shapes. The reason? The success of any visual composition highly relates to how people perceive it. Perception. A key ingredient in creating an appealing entertainment robot. From the very beginning, Robert Doornick wanted his life-sized robots to be non-threatening.
CIRCLES, OVALS & ELLIPSES
The first and foremost meaning of these shapes is “Eternity“ since they have no beginning or end. The circle has a long association with the sun and Earth as well as other cosmic objects while the ellipse is similar to the whole universe. That’s why round shapes may give the feeling of magic and mystery. In addition, circles don’t have angles so it makes them softer and milder.
Common Perceptions: Eternity, Female, Universe, Magic, Mystery
THIRD STAGE OF ROBOT HEAD DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
Here we made the “eyes” blue and more dimensional, replacing the two white, flat ellipses. We also fabricated a head wrap to simulate a hairline. Speakers are now atop the head.
FOURTH STAGE OF ROBOT HEAD DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
A solar panel has now been added to the top of the head, and it has become more decorative. Our team included industrial designer, George Heyward. We were still striving for a softer, gentler appearance because we worked with children all over the world.
FIFTH STAGE OF ROBOT HEAD DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
Here is the SICO you know. More anthropomorphic, aerodynamic and well…just darn cute. Cute but in a cool way. Cuteness is not to be underestimated when creating life-sized machines because just by virtue of their size, robots can be intimidating. You cannot engage if you do not appear friendly. Even without activation, the head appears animated. It took years of development to arrive at this design. Now we had to turn our attention to the body, and our next Post will be about exactly that. Stay tuned!
SICO & KEITH HARING
In 1984, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol came to the IRI office in Soho across the hall from Keith’s studio.
Keith hired the robot for one of his parties and subsequently made this drawing. Six years later, Keith left our planet. We wish he could have stuck around longer…he would have enjoyed seeing SICO grow up. Miss you Keith, you were a gentle man.