Robot Beginnings

What drives robot design and development?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How, when, where, and why does the initial idea of developing a particular robot emerge and eventually evolve into a prototype or finished product? Here we address the ideas and motives in robot development.


Human Proximity Model


Ideas for robots emerge mainly from robot makers within the robotic bubble. These patterns of beginning might exclude the eventual end-users from being involved in the initial phases of conceiving robots.

Ideas for Developing Robots

Ideas for robots often take inspiration from existing technologies, from robot buyer requirements, and from identified human needs.

However robot makers’ curiosity and inquiries are constrained by the limits of their gaze. When the idea originates in the robotic bubble, affected stakeholders and their motives may be excluded from the development process.


Motives for Developing Robots

Motives are the driving forces for moving from thought to action, from an initial idea to the actual development of a robot. In searching REELER's data for reasons why robots were created we found two types of motives: Stated and Objective Motives.

Stated Motives


Object Motives


Individual Motives

Previous Work: New ideas and projects in robotics are the continuation of previous projects that were carried out by a given group of robot makers.

Passion for Robotics: Robot developers are passionate about building robots and have a lot of fun doing it.

Doing Good: Robot developers, report doing good or having a social impact as a motivating factor for developing new robots.

What motivates you? Vote on the poll to your right by selecting the sentences you agree with and see what motivates others.

Organizational Motives

Product-oriented: The robot emerges from ideas for new product development or expanding to other applications or markets, from which the organization expects to make a profit.

Customer-oriented: A customer initiates development and comes with requirements for a robot, from which the robot development organization expects to generate revenue.

  Research-oriented: The robot is initiated from calls for funding and the aim is to explore new applications or functionalities in robotics.

Giving Voice

Click on to listen to the Affected Stakeholder. Click on the arrows to navigate. You can expand the content to full screen by clicking on the bottom right corner.

Technical Beginnings

Users cannot be involved in the early stages of technological development, because the applications (and hence the relevant users) are not yet defined.

Technology Readiness Level (TRLs) is a method for estimating the maturity of technologies, consistently and uniformly. By clicking on the arrows you can read a brief description and see the user involvement we recommend for each TRLs.

  • Perspective Taking: A process of engaging with others by acting to perceive and understand a given situation from their perspective.
  • Sociomaterial World: A mix of social, cultural, and temporal influences that continuously shape one's framework of experiencing the world.

Key Concepts

Reflection Points

  • How could you involve directly affected stakeholders in your design phase as a resource for idea development?
  • Do you mostly agree with the choice of themes selected for funding in robotics or not? Can you think of other drivers?
  • To what extent would you be willing to modify your initial approach towards the robot design if it turned difficult to accept for users and affected sakeholders?
  • What are the resources needed to understand and meet the costumer/end-user demand?

Concluding Remarks on Robot Beginnings

By bringing end-users and other affected stakeholders into closer proximity to robot makers, it might be possible to bring some alignment between them. This is complicated considering the distributed nature of robot development, both in terms of time and geography, but also the responsibility across organizations.

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