Digital Paint

Using the Playtime Computing environment, children can create stories that come to life in the real world. We are developing interfaces that enable children to author stories in the physical environment—stories where robots are the characters and children are not only the observers, but also the choreographers and actors in the stories. To do this, children author stories and robot behaviors using a simple digital painting interface. By combining the physical affordances of painting with digital media and robotic characters, stories can come to life in the real world. Programming in this environment becomes a group activity when multiple children use these tangible interfaces to program advanced robot behaviors.

Tools and Technologies for Coordinated Robotic Performances

    Painting is a powerful and accessible metaphor for children to interact with. This work focuses on painting as a tool used to coordinate and collaborate behavior between young children to create creative performances using robots as characters.

    Digital Paint focuses on a novel technology to allow kids to choreograph expressive behavior for an expressive robotic character. Expressive robots (e.g. Tofu) were used as characters in an interactive choreographing experience made specifically for kids. A handheld device was used to paint on the floor and walls of the Playtime Computing space, a space specifically designed to support play for children. The painted lines and drawings allow the robot to understand the choreographed performance the children would like them to coordinate with.

    Digital Paint encourages play and learning. Children who participate and interact with this system learn to incorporate and coordinate activities and stories with expressive robotic characters. Digital Paint suggests that kids fantasize and play with robotic agents, encouraging creativity and engagement.


    • Wistort, R. TofuDraw: Choreographing Robot Behavior through Digital Painting.,2010. S.M. Thesis Media Arts and Sciences, MIT.
    • Stiehl, W. Chang, A., Wistort,R., Breazeal, C. (2009). “The Robotic Preschool of the Future: New Technologies for Learning and Play”, Finalist in the Como 4 Children Competition at Interaction Design for Children 2009, June 3-5, 2009, in Como, Italy

    Engagement and Play through Coordinated Painting