Robot Dining Companion

    This project was about the following ideas:

    1. How might one establish a shared context for play that is digital, and therefore can be adapted easily, but also maintains focus on social cues and not only a screen?
    2. What is a play pattern that supports conversation anchored in a specific set of objects and actions but is still open-ended, and how might the technology’s form prompt this pattern?
    Le Fonduephone was a dining experience designed to allow children to practice language with a robotic companion. The child sat at a small table with the robot. A virtual environment was projected around them, resembling an outdoor French café. A projector displayed images of fruit onto physical plates on the table. The child could use a special tracked fork to pick up and take bites of the virtual fruit. The blend of virtual and physical created a shared play context, preserving the benefits of tangible objects as well as the flexibility and ease of sensing of digital content.
    This project was developed as part of the Center for Future Storytelling.



    • Natalie Freed, “This is the fluffy robot that only speaks french”: Language use between preschoolers, their families, and a social robot while sharing virtual toys. 2012. S. M. Media Arts and Sciences, MIT. [PDF]

    Fonduephone enabled mixed reality play for early learning!