Exploring interaction design opportunities for remote robotic services
The Challenge: Rethinking ABB MyRobot
This project was the foundation for a master thesis written by Varuna Mudumby and me. We got into contact with ABB Robotics via an IT consulting firm, and got challenged to redesign a remote robotic software tool called MyRobot.
ABB Robotics had developed MyRobot to help facilitate proactive maintenance of robots. MyRobot was then sold to robot customers as a service part of a larger service agreement. ABB Robotics did not know much details about the customers, nor their needs, as users weren’t involved in any part of the design process. Hence, we needed to further explore who the users were, their needs and their experience with the MyRobot service.
-Who are the users?
Exploring the world of robots
In order to create a good user experience, one must have a solid understanding of the domain being designed for. In this project, my thesis partner and I did a lot of research about robots, robotic services and robot competitors. This prepared us to know what questions to ask, and make discussions become more fruitful.
The hunt for users
To be able to conduct valuable user studies, I strongly believe one has to go out in the wild and do field studies. This is however easier said than done. Setting up a meeting with robot end-customers for conducting a study was a tedious process. After weeks of unsuccessful e-mailing, I discovered that calling people directly by phone is far more effective* I finally started to receive positive answers and I managed to get visits to four different robot end-customer companies: the smallest owning two robots and the biggest approximately two hundred.
*The CEO for the IT-consultant firm that initiated the project grabbed an invisible phone and said: MAKE A CALL!
After observing several factory plants using robots, talking to managers and robots technicians, we got some key insights:
• Several customers were not aware of that they had MyRobot as part of their service agreement
• A competitor believed there is no market for such a service
• MyRobot did not meet up to ABB’s expectations
• The most plausible user of a remote robotic software tool is a robot technician
• Robot technicians want to be able to personalize the system
• Robot downtime is a metric that many users wish to have
The thorough research brought loads of material to work with. To be able to remember everything, including our spontaneous aha-moments –we simply pasted things onto the walls in our working space. This not only helped us remember, but also opened up for other people to come join in our discussions as everything was visible.
We discarded things considered irrelevant, kept brainstorming, and eventually created a structure out of our findings. We evolved this into a sitemap (see picture below).
An example of the redesigned user interface
The final presentation
This project boiled down to a master thesis, available here.