UX Design Awards 2020 - Nominated

Starling is the first consumer social robotic assistant that can transition from individual to collective utility, play & creation encouraging human engagement,  empowerment & a humanistic robotic future


Robot Proliferation

User adoption of consumer robotics are expected to proliferate widely within the next decade. According to OMDIA worldwide sales of consumer robots will reach 65.9 million units annually by 2025 from 15.4 million units in 2018 with a market value of $19 billion from $5.6 billion respectively. Consumer robots include any non-industrial robots ranging from Personal Assistant-, Toy-, Educational-, Household-, Vacuum-, Lawn Mowing- to Pool Cleaning Robots.

Today’s Consumer Robots

The majority of today’s consumer robots encourage negative human behavioural outcomes, often using “dark” anthropomorphism”, such as:

Human-to-Robot addiction
Human-to-Robot dependency
Human isolation
Human behavioural modification

Human affective replacement

To better understand how we can move towards a human empowering robotic future & how I could help with the progress, I conducted a value analysis of how much today’s consumer robots foster human unification vs. human isolation & how much this was dependent on robotic utility vs. robotic play.

5 Pillars - Consumer Robot Vision 

Human-to-human Enagagment Maximisation

Robot assistant encouraging human to human engagement maximisation instead of human to robot engagement maximisation

User Empowerment

Robot assistant empowering the user instead of making user dependent on robot

Product Flexibility

Robot assistant that can transition within social situations instead of remaining static

Human Unification

Robot assistant encouraging human unification instead of isolation

“Light” Cuteness

Subtle robot anthropomorphised design to not encourage robot addication

How might we achieve this vision?
4 Areas of Research

Key Insights
Swarm Robotics:
1. Highly flexible systems, that can multiply potential of single agent through connectivity.
2. Not applied within consumer space yet.
Play & Creation:
1. Offers range of cognitive & physical health benefits such as decreased stress, depression and increased brain plasticity.
2. Play & creation within social setting more powerful and enjoyable.
3. Survey shows that majority would like to have more social play & creation throughout their day.

1. Daily utility and assistance with tasks by robot is crucial factor for users.

Meet Starling 

Composition & Design

Starling Hardware Design 
Anthropomorphism limited to a subtle curve of the front LCD screen

Shape Development 

Interaction Development

Starling User Controls

Screen & App

Starling Screen for quick controls & interactions (left)

Starling App to control Starling & connect it to other Starlings (right)

Starling App


Top: UX (left), Login (right)
Bottom: Basic features (first), Pair-(second), Group-(third), Swarm (fourth) connection

User Scenarios

Transition from Individual to Collective Setting

Individual utility (left), individual play (right)

Pair/group/swarm play (left), pair/group/swarm creation (right)

Environmental Impact

Repairable, recyclable, biomimicry

Starling is a sustainable robotic device, as it can be completely taken apart so that the user or the company can replace and fix a Starling. Starling will be made of recyclable and recycled materials. Starling will collaborate heavily with environmental organisations that try to fight climate change and human pollution. These collaborations will be encouraged through the desk pet feature and other Starling applications.
The Starling story is inspired by nature's massive swarm and emergence phenomena, with the Starling being one of the birds known for some of the largest bird swarm formations on Earth. This swarm phenomena not only inspired the network effect for a social consumer robot, but pushed the idea that we as humans should look at biomimicry to move towards a healthier human-robotic future through greater social and physical human connectivenes.

Anticipated Result & Social Impact

Open discussion to enrich our common values

The most significant social impact of Starling will be to open up a discussion of what we as users and as a free society want from our consumer robotic smart assistants. The anticipated result of Starling will be a demand for socially adaptive, creativity-encouraging and human centered robot assistants. 
For consumer robotic assistants that adjust to serve and empower our beautifully complex social, creative and emotional human behaviours instead of nudging a user into a dull robot-centered vision and behaviour. Our social bonds, collective creativity and free minds is what makes our society thrive. Let’s ensure that our robotic technology that we live with equally enriches our values.