MYON
CONCEPT DESIGN FOR THE MEGATREND ROBOTICS

Making Myon – the robot you want to teach.

Developing a concept design by using design thinking methods

COLLABORATING WITH EXPERTS AT THE FRONTIER OF INNOVATION, WE PUT A FRIENDLY FACE ON A HUMANOID RESEARCH ROBOT.

Robotics and artificial intelligence are flourishing, with mass production rapidly emerging as a megatrend. Most of us anticipate a world shared with robots—whether our expectations are accompanied by excitement, or caution. The debate surrounding the impact of robotics innovations is polarising, but many believe that the robots of today, and of tomorrow, should be equipped with neural networks and systems that support their capacity to self-learn. Research projects studying robotics must ask themselves: What is intelligence, and how does it evolve?

In many developed countries within Asia, robots are seen as advantageous and have been accepted into daily life. By contrast, Europe still views humanoid robots with scepticism and apprehension, considering them as a security issue. The goal of our design thinking process and the whole project was to communicate that self-learning robots can enrich and simplify our lives.

DESIGN THINKING FOR FRIENDLY ROBOTS

Those at the forefront of robotics and artificial intelligence research are unanimous in their goal: Create robots that are welcoming, especially in appearance. If robots are learning and if we see something familiar of ourselves in them, we’re more likely to respond to them with positivity and friendliness in return—helping them to learn and evolve amicable personalities.

The Myon robot was developed in order to study how robots learn learning from humans the way that children learn from adults. The robot is the product of an extensive European research project and a collaboration between many talented experts, including Humboldt University and Bayer Material Science, with whom we worked closely. Our role was to design and build the robot’s outer shell and body, creating an outward appearance that addressed people’s resistance to humanoid robots.

CONCEPT DESIGN FOR A NEW CHARACTER

Our challenge in creating the body and shell was twofold: Firstly, there were numerous requirements for technical functionality and secondly, we needed to create a character.

The Myon robot can be disassembled into parts and put back together again, meaning that our design had to protect the mechanics of the robot as well as accommodating its torsion and making it easy to handle. Myon is comprised of autonomous body parts, each with its own battery cell and processor. Each part can be used individually within different areas of research. It was important that our work preserved this focus on modularity.

Developing a concept design by using design thinking methods
Innovative project & future-focused design
Innovative project & future-focused design

LEVERAGING EXPERTISE IN A CLOSE COOPERATION

We also wanted the robot to have a high-value aesthetic. Working in close cooperation with Bayer Material Science, we helped design a special material that formed the exoskeleton. This serves to stabilise Myon, allows parts to be removed, and protects its technical components. The “skin” of the robot is made of fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate shells, which makes the exterior very sturdy, and creates a sense of presence.

Our partnership with Bayer Material Science allowed us to prototype and develop the component parts efficiently. This lean product development process leveraged our expertise, and allowed us to source the necessary materials with lower production costs in comparison to similar humanoid robot projects.

When it came to developing the physical appearance of Myon, we embarked on a character workshop to create a body that personified the idea of learning. We designed Myon as a sympathetic cyclops, with one camera as an eye. Modelled after the stature of an eight-year-old child, we introduced smooth, curved lines and facial features that echoed a smile. The result was a friendly, approachable and unintimidating robot that people are compelled to interact with, creating a positive user experience.

Innovative project & future-focused design

PRODUCT DESIGN WITH A LIFE OF ITS OWN

The appearance of a product is symbolically and emotionally important – every detail defines how we interact with it. This was especially true for Myon. The final Myon robot opened up a new way of interacting with robotic technologies, and was a huge success – Myon is still in use for scientific purposes. For us, this unique opportunity allowed us to be truly visionary, looking forward to a bold future, while drawing upon our expertise in project management and product concept design.

From July 29 2016 – April 28 2017, Myon robot can be seen as an exhibit in the German Cinematheque at the Sony Center am Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

Developing a concept design by using design thinking methods