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1. a creative collective
2. an interdisciplinary ecosystem
3. an art tech movement


1. a creative collective
2. an interdisciplinary ecosystem
3. an art tech movement

Affective Robotics

[ONGOING] An Educational, Semester-long Project


This is a project on affective robotics—robots that move in a way that moves us.
Traditionally, robotic movement is directed by action goals (“grab this object”) rather than expressive goals (“this is what it feels like when I am anxious”). Yet the advent of soft robotics—robots made from compliant materials—has ushered in the possibility of actuating organic, enteric movement: movement that can help us express the ways our own feelings might form and flutter within our bodies.

Scope of the Project

This is a learning community, seeking to integrate humanistic injury with artistic practice with engineering methodologies to create kinetic sculptures that evoke and embody emotions such as wonder, sorrow, anxiety, joy

We will embrace the conceptual complexity (posthumanism, embodiment) and technical difficulty (control systems, silicone manufacturing) of this topic by building a bottom-up perspective of affect-directed programs, innovating within the frameworks of human-robot interaction and embodied expression. We believe that soft robotics are an especially important interdisciplinary medium because of their unstandardized and bespoke nature: this project is a chance to imbue a nascent engineering/design engineering/design field with affective and aesthetic values from the get-go.


We are looking to build an interdisciplinary cohort of 8-10 students with backgrounds in the humanities, arts, and engineering sciences who will engage critically and creatively with affective robotics. Each week, this cohort will engage in 2-hour hands-on workshops (tentatively scheduled for Monday night at the REEF Makerspace in Allston) and a 2-hour discussion group in an upperclassman house in the Yard, during which we will read papers on foundational theories related to embodiment and bioethics. Participation in all workshops and discussions is mandatory.

No experience is necessary to participate in this learning community. We are grappling with contemporary (and, at times, controversial) theories and working at the bleeding edge of soft robotics: the process will be necessarily experimental and contingent on all participants being open-minded and ambitious about learning. We will host beginner discussion groups and workshops to introduce students to starting concepts and skills related to our central questions. You are expected to attend our beginner discussions and workshops for material you are unfamiliar with so you can engage meaningfully with the rest of our programming!

While we will be learning the foundational methods and concepts for this project in these scheduled sessions, participants are expected to dedicate an additional 4-6 hours per week to asynchronous workshop and discussion prep (e.g. casting molds, prepping discussion topics, building final projects).

Tentative Workshop Structure

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