“Ranger” tries to motivate children to tidy up their toys

In 2012, we conducted a series of Wizard-of-Oz field experiments with 14 families to evaluate a robot prototype for home use. The robotic box “Ranger” is developed in collaboration with the Robotic Systems Laboratory (LSRO) at EPFL, and made for young children to encourage them to tidy up their room. Some impressions from our kick-off “interaction design workshop” at ZHdK can be found here: ZHdK Blog Robots for Life. In our field study with the first “Ranger” prototype, we investigated child-robot interaction in a tidying up scenario, depending on how active the robot behaved (proactive vs. reactive behavior). We were also interested in parent’s feedback on the robot’s design and the general approach.

Ranger study: Ranger robot in front of toys on the carpet          first Ranger prototype

After this first development-evaluation-circle, we are currently working on a refined version of the Ranger box with which we will conduct further human-robot interaction studies.

Collaborators: Florian Vaussard, Philippe Rétornaz, Alain Berthoud, Francesco Mondada, Florian Wille (ZHdK), Karmen Franinović (ZHdK), Julia Fink, Séverin Lemaignan, Pierre Dillenbourg

We thank all parents and children who participated in the field-study, as well as Ecole Vivalys for their collaboration.


During 2013, while working on a refined prototype of Ranger, we carried out a series of child-robot interaction studies with 30 young children (4-5 years old) interacting with Ranger. One of our main goals in this study was to investigate the effects of unexpected robot behavior on children’s engagement with the robot, and the perceived cognitive abilities of the robot. We created a playful scenario in which two children assemble dominos toghether with the robot. As the two children are in different parts of the room, Ranger is used to transport the dominos between them. Usually, when a child would call the robot to come over, it would just follow the request and approach the child. However, from time to time, we manipulated the robot’s behavior such that it would go somewhere else and eventually “get lost” in one corner of the room. This robot behavior was supposed to be unexpected for the children, and we assumed it might increase children’s engagement with the robot, and how far they perceive it as having “its own will” (and ascribe intentionality to it).

Ranger robot study "dominos à trois"

Collaborators: Julia Fink, Séverin Lemaignan, Pierre DillenbourgFlorian Vaussard, Philippe Rétornaz, Francesco Mondada

We thank all parents and children who participated in the study, as well as Ecole Vivalys for their collaboration.


Publications and Presentations:

  • J. Fink, S. Lemaignan, P. Dillenbourg, P. Rétornaz, F. Vaussard, A. Berthoud, F. Mondada, F. Wille, K. Franinović. Which Robot Behavior Can Motivate Children to Tidy up Their Toys? Design and Evaluation of “Ranger”. 9th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) 2014, Bielefeld, Germany, March 3-6, 2014 (link)
  • J. Fink, F. Vaussard, P. Rétornaz, A. Berthoud, F. Wille, F. Mondada, and P. Dillenbourg. Motivating Children to Tidy up their Toys with a Robotic Box. Presentation and Poster at the 8th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) 2013, Pioneers Workshop, Tokyo, Japan, March 3, 2013 (link)
  • J. Fink, F. Vaussard, P. Rétornaz, A. Berthoud, F. Mondada, and P. Dillenbourg. How Children Tidy up Their Room with “Ranger” the Robotic Box. Poster at the 2nd site-visit of the NCCR robotics, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland, October 24-26, 2012 (link)