Laboratoire d'Informatique de Grenoble Équipe Ingénierie de l'Interaction Homme-Machine

Équipe Ingénierie de l'Interaction

Internship on investigating the size of small robots for user interaction

Investigating the size of small robots for user interaction


Shape-changing user interfaces (UI) have emerged as a new way to interact with computers, using dynamic changes in a device’s physical shape for input and output. The prototyping of shape-changing UI, let alone their development, is a consensual grand challenge in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) community [1]. Programmable matter is a promising way to implement future shape-changing user interfaces. Programmable matter is defined here as a modular robot composed of a huge number of mm-scale, stand-alone, spherical and detachable robots that can rearrange themselves in the 3D space (, allowing for as many shapes as play-doh.

Research question

What is the optimal size for molecular robots from the user viewpoint? We will evaluate the users’ perception of different resolution of shape-changing interfaces made of small-scale robots to find the optimal size resolution. While current molecular robots can be used to implement low-resolution interfaces, higher resolution will be obtain through mock-ups of molecules of smaller sizes and today’s tangible UI.


Spending effort in developing extremely tiny robots might be a waste of time from the user viewpoint as users might not be able to perceive the difference.


The internship will address the challenge of introducing the interaction with the user with modular robots. This challenge has been barely addressed so far both in the fields of HCI and robotics [2,3,4].

1. Alexander, et al. 2018. Grand Challenges in Shape-Changing Interface Research. ACM CHI 2018.
2. Le Goc, et al. 2016. Zooids: Building Blocks for Swarm User Interfaces. ACM UIST 2016.
3. Roudaut, et al. 2016. Cubimorph: Designing modular interactive devices. IEEE ICRA 2016.
4. Bourgeois, et al. 2016. Programmable matter as a cyber-physical conjugation. IEEE SMC.

Objectives of the internship

During the internship, the student is expected to:
• Review related work in the robotics and human-computer interaction fields,
• Build comparable prototypes at different relevant resolution,
• Design an experiment assessing the users’ perception of the different resolutions for different tasks,
• Implement the experiment’s software,
• Conduct the experiment,
• Analyze the results of the experiment,
• Write and defend her/his thesis.
For all these steps, previous work, material and experience from both supervisors will help to get a start and improve the student’s work.


The internship requires making, coding and statistics skills. If you feel unsure about your skills but are interested in the topic, contact us.


Céline Coutrix
CNRS Researcher
Laboratoire d’Informatique de Grenoble

Julien Bourgeois
FEMTO-ST Institute

Benoit Piranda
Associate professor
FEMTO-ST Institute

Ce travail s'effectuera dans le cadre du projet PhyFlex.


Céline Coutrix