Supporting Remote Social Robot Design Collaboration with Online Canvases: Lessons Learned from Facilitators’ and Participants’ Experiences

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Social robot design projects typically involve multidisciplinary teamwork and collaboration, adopt a Human-Centred Design (HCD) approach, and deal with physical (tangible) objects, i.e., robots. HCD takes a human to the centre point of the design process. A typical activity in HCD are design workshops where a facilitator is needed to guide and moderate the task-related and interactional activities throughout the session. Facilitation is also usually needed in longer-term design projects or courses to guide participants through the different phases of design during several sessions. Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most design activities including social robot design were rapidly transferred to online mode. Designing for tangible objects is challenging in online settings because the interaction experience with a physical object is hard to demonstrate online. In this article, we report how we harnessed online canvases to support both short-term social robot design workshops and a long-term design course. Based on participants’ feedback and facilitators’ experiences, we report lessons learned from utilizing collaborative design canvases for creative social robot design projects that specifically focus on early stages and concept ideation. We propose practical guidelines for canvas-based online facilitation focusing on creative design workshops and projects. In addition, we discuss the lessons learned concerning social robot design activities taking place in online mode. To respond to the challenges of designing tangible robots in a fully online mode, we suggest a Hybrid Robotic Design Model (HRDM), where the participants work in contact with facilitators, other participants and robots at specific points, while the other phases are conducted online.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317–343
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Social Robotics
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Online collaboration, collaborative design, interaction, teamwork, human-centred design, social robots, facilitation

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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