After 50 years of promises and potential, robots are beginning to leave the lab to live in the wild with us. But how should we coexist with these intelligent, autonomous machines? In the Personable Robotics workshop, Dr. Madeline Gannon taught MRAC researchers how to push beyond robots as tools of automation or collaboration, and explore new models of companionship between humans and robots.


This past month of June, the Master of Robotics and Advanced Construction (MRAC) had the honor to host the “Personable Robotics” Workshop, led by Dr. Madeline Gannon with the support of Daniil Koshelyuk and Aslinur Taskin. As part of the third term of the program, dedicated to the topic of “Human-Machine Collaboration”, the workshop focused on the design of interactive robotic installations, teaching participants how to find their own unique perspectives on the future of human-robot relations and create their own personable robots.

Thanks to Dr Madeline Gannon’s expertise and guidance, the students were able to generate innovative ideas and visions for the future of human-machine interactions. The design proposals were interactive and playful, experimenting with groundbreaking ways of communication between human and robot. Among others, the “U R Dancing” project explored the communication with the robot through music and sensors developing an interactive design project in which the UR Robot responded to the rhythm and input generated by the music.

MRAC Robotics

The one-week workshop combined lectures, hands-on learning, and direct mentorship to help students find their own unique perspective into the future of human-robot relations. What makes a robot a good flatmate? How can a robot enhance my experience of an environment? How can I be a better caretaker to my robot? Why wouldn’t my robot want to go for a walk with me?

Dr. Gannon prepared three interactive demonstrations to share with workshop attendees. The demonstrations showed how to tease out different personality traits from a robot. She explained how each demonstration was made, including an in-depth review of all source code. Workshop attendees then break into small teams, and mix / modify / mash-up these demonstrations to make their very own interactive robotics installation. Students were encouraged to bring a level of humor, frivolity, maximalism, and fun to their explorations with these machines.

MRAC Robotics

Dr. Madeline Gannon is a multidisciplinary designer inventing better ways to communicate with machines. In her research, Gannon seeks to blend knowledge from design, robotics, and human-computer interaction to innovate at the intersection of art and technology. Her recent works taming giant industrial robots focus on developing new frontiers in human-robot relations. Her interactive installation, Mimus, earned her the nickname “The Robot Whisperer”, and was awarded a 2017 Ars Electronica STARTS Prize Honorable Mention.

She has also been named a 2017/2018 World Economic Forum Cultural Leader. Gannon has been internationally exhibited at leading cultural institutions, published at academic conferences, and widely covered by diverse media outlets across design, art, and technology communities. She holds a PhD in Computational Design from Carnegie Mellon University, where she explored human-centered interfaces for autonomous fabrication machines. She also holds a Masters in Architecture from Florida International University.

MRAC Robotics

Interested in the emerging design and market opportunities arising from novel robotic and advanced manufacturing systems?

The application for the next edition of the Master in Robotics and Advanced Construction (MRAC) is already open!

Arrange a call with Cecilia, MRAC Coordinator, and learn more about the programme.