S T U D E N T   E X A M P L E S
home+ projects (full page)
DEA 5210 projects (left column)

Arch Robotics coverMy book. MIT Press, 2016



Required: attendance, timely arrival to class, participation, and the uploading of all documents
to the course Box or Google Drive folder strictly adhering to all formatting requirement and specifications detailed here, on the course webpage, and in the ACM conference website(s). Failure to fulfill these requirements will reduce your grade up to 10% of the total grade at the discretion of the instructors. Attendance at the start of class will be taken for some class sessions without advanced notice. For each absence or late arrival, email the professor and TA with an explanation, attaching supporting documentation (e.g. doctor’s note); these will be considered as a valid excuse (hardship, medical appointment) without penalty, or not. It is your education, so you should take responsibility for yourself in attending all class sessions on time. 

Late submissions will NOT be accepted, except with a doctor’s note or other proof of personal crisis or hardship. Failure to submit the printed documents and digital files on-time will reduce your final assignment grade 10 points.

Grading for this course is carefully determined by the professor (and TA, if any) with thoughtful consideration of student grading by your peers. If you believe the grade for any component of this class including the final grade is incorrect, you may submit a written argument along with the component-in-question for reassessment. The written argument must reference a specific issue with the graded component of the course and must be thoroughly substantiated. The professor (and TA, if any) will together consider the request, potentially with the assistance of other faculty with expertise in the area. The reassessment will result in any of the following outcomes: no change of grade, a change of grade for the better, or a change of grade for the worse. You understand that the grade for work submitted for reassessment may result in a grade lower than originally assigned.

To prepare the requirements for this course, enrolled students may conduct peer-to-peer participant studies using their peers as participants. Methods may include interviews, observations, surveys, co-design activity, heuristic evaluations, and cognitive walkthroughs. As part of this design research activity, students conducting these studies may take written notes, photographs, and/or video as a means of documentation. This documentation may appear in papers, videos, and conferences for academic audiences. Student will not be identified by name, and no aspect of these studies should cause discomfort or risk to participants. Should any student in the class choose not to participate in any aspect of the study, or have questions about her/his participation, please make this known to the instructor. Additionally, for any work of the course submitted for publication, student authors will be identified as first authors of the submission, and the instructor will follow in the list of authors of such work in recognition of their efforts in cultivating this work. If these term are not acceptable to you, please indicate so to the instructor. Non-participation will not impact your grade for this course in any way.

D E A    S T A T E M E N T
DEA is dedicated to fostering a respectful and accepting learning community in which individuals from various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can embrace and respect diversity. Everyone in this community is empowered to participate in meaningful learning and discussion, regardless of an individual’s self-identified gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or political ideology. We encourage students to share their uniqueness; be open to the views of others; honor and learn from their colleagues; communicate in a respectful manner; and create an inclusive environment.


Architectural Robotics  
Keith Evan Green, Ph.D.
Mon and Wed, 8:40 - 9:55am, HEB 2L32 "Assembly Studio"

C O U R S E   D E S C R I P T I O N
  |   D E A   6 2 1 0
Embedding robotics into the fabric of architecture fosters a more interactive and potentially more intimate relationship between the built environment and us, and represents a new frontier for design, computing, and psychology. Part-seminar, part-lab, this course considers the design, technical, social, ecological, and ethical challenges and opportunities of architectural robotics.

P R E R E Q U I S I T E S   |   E N R O L L M E N T
• 3 credits; letter grade only; no final exam; priority given to DEA students.
• Encouraged to enroll: students from MAE, IS, CS, ECE, PSYCH, COGSCI, FSAD, ARCH, ART, COMM. All students from outside DEA require professor's permission.

S Y L L A B U S    |    S E E   A L S O   M Y   D E A  5 2 1 0   a n d   2 7 3 0

H I S T O R Y  
This course is the “next chapter” of a course that I taught for many years that was cross-listed in Architecture and Electrical & Computer Engineering under the same title. The course pedagogy has been the subject of a paper presented at ICRA (the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation), and a paper published in RAS (IEEE Robotics and Automation). I also co-authored with Mark Gross (then, of CMU) an overview of architectural robotics for ACM interactions.
Rethinking the Machines in Which We Live. IEEE RAS.
Architectural Robotics, Inevitably. ACM Interactions.

B A C K G R O U N D    A N D   D E F I N I T I O N S
In the act of designing, designers typically anticipate, in the form and function of their artifacts, how people will use them and how these artifacts will respond to a range of possible, local conditions. In designing architectural robotics, however, there is a fundamental difference: investigators are engineering a responsive system that actively engages and interacts with inhabitants and local conditions in real time. So, unlike a conventional building that has a limited range of responses to dynamic, changing conditions, architectural robotic artifacts are intimately bound together with their users and local conditions in a designed performance.

Architectural Robotics is defined by the movement of physical mass and by their interactivity with and adaptivity to things outside them (e.g. people, other life forms, objects, information). The prospect of this kind of environment was anticipated some forty years ago by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte in his vision of “a man-made environment that responds to and is ‘meaningful’ for him or her” [5].Wired editor Kevin Kelly has since imagined a “world of mutating buildings” and “rooms stuffed with co-evolutionary furniture” [3]. And while Bill Gates envisions “a robot in every home” [2], William Mitchell, the late Dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning and director of its Media Lab, envisioned homes “as robots for living in” [4].

Architectural Robotics meanwhile raises such critical questions as:

  • How will we program the built environment, from furniture to cities?
  • How will architectural robotics recognize activities taking place inside and surrounding them?
  • How will designers (which may include end-users) associate particular human and ecological conditions with desired built environment configurations?
  • How to design cross-operability and collective interactivity/intelligence of multiple architectural robotic artifacts (furnishings, furniture, rooms, buildings, cities) operating together as cyber-physical “ecosystems”?
  • What are the safety, security and privacy issues related to architectural robotics, and how do designers design architectural robotics to protect property and living things from hackers, operating failures, and other harmful impacts?

Architectural Robotics must go beyond simplistic formal achievements; they must instead explore ways for improving life, enhancing existing places, and supporting human interaction. This is no Utopian dream in which technology or design transforms completely our everyday reality. Instead, design and technology together – a cyber-physical hybrid – supports human activity, responds naturally, and performs according to our needs and wants. Architectural Robotics, when employed, must also complement and redefine our urban living patterns. Answers to life problems and opportunities will come not from computational or design solutions alone, but through the way computation, embedded in the physical, built environment, helps support and enhance the interactions across people and their surroundings to create places of social and psychological significance.

For philosopher Andrew Feenberg, “technology is not simply a means but has become an environment, a way of life” [1]. Architectural Robotics is more than an aesthetic search, a stylistic possibility, or a technological quest; it is, instead, a way to develop new spatial patterns in support of human activities. This course, “Architectural Robotics,” aims to cultivate new vocabularies of design and new, complex realms of understanding towards novel, computational and bio-centric design propositions.

[1] Feenberg, A. Transforming Technology, A Critical Theory Revisited (Oxford University Press, 2002), 8.
[2] Gates, B. “A Robot in Every Home,” Scientific American, December 16, 2006,
[3] Kelly, K. Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World       (Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 1994), 472.
[4] Mitchell, W.J. e-topia ( Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 59.
[5] Negroponte, N. Soft Architecture Machine (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1975).

A sketchbook like this one or a comparable one found in our bookstore.
Prototyping materials. You may elect to build hardware to partly satisfy the requirements for this course. A list of materials for building hardware and an extensive guide to building hardware can be found at my DEA 5210 coursepage.

R E A D I N G S     A N D     R E Q U I R E D    B O O K   
Readings for each class meeting are listed in the SCHEDULE below.
All readings for the course are downloadable from this page except for my book, Architectural Robotics: Ecosystems of Bits, Bytes, and Biology (MIT Press), which is available via the link or from the Cornell bookstore. All course readings are categorized as follows:

  • Readings - Architectural Robotics are from my Architectural Robotics
    > read assigned pages to build core understanding of the week's topic.

  • Readings - Key are key for the week.
    > download/read these. Members of class will present the material for discussion.

  • Readings - Reference are references to fill-out your understanding.

Please read all assigned readings ahead of their class session.
Additionally, references for programming robotic and interactive systems are found on our password protected  D O C U M E N T S  page.)


  • One class meeting per week is focused on readings and discussion.
    One or more students from the class (to be assigned) will offer a presentation on a key reading (as listed above for each week). Please have these presentations ready to present for Monday's class in case time permits for it. For some of these sessions, we will organize a panel, debate, or like team activity.
  • The other class meeting per week is focused on assignments.
    Students will frequently be asked to deliver a brief status report on their developing projects. Here is an example from previous class of the document supporting such a status report.

You will also...

  • Benefit from informal exchanges with peers
  • Deliver formal presentations at designated milestones throughout the semester.
  • Advance your project through conversations with the professor and peers.
  • Work with shop staff in the D2FS on fabricating your project.
  • Engage in peer-to-peer grading and user studies.
  • Consider formal responses and assigned grades to your assignments.

S C H E D U L E   B Y   W E E K
Week 01 08.27 | TYPES
Robots for Living In: Reconfigurable, Distributed, and Transfigurable

Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch.s 1 and 2.
Readings - Key:
> Negroponte, N. “Intelligent Environments” in Soft Architecture Machines, Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1975.
Week 02 09.03 | PATTERNS (No class Monday) 
Compressed Pattern Spaces, Heat Maps, Typology, and Pattern Recognition
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch.s 4, 5, 8, 11, and Ch. 7 to p. 103.
Readings - Key:
> Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M. and Jacobson, M. A Pattern Language Towns, Buildings, Construction. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2013. (Everyone reads preface to p. 1.)

Week 03 09.10 | INTERACTIONS
Interactions All Around Us.

Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 12, pp. 180-193.
Readings - Key:
> Superstudio. “Invention Design and Evasion Design,” J. Ockman, Architecture Culture 1943-1968. NY: Rizzoli, 1993, pp. 437-441.
> Dourish, Paul. Embodied Interaction. MIT Press, 2001.

Week 04 09.17 | CONTROLS
User, Interactive, and Autonomous Control
s for Architectural Robotics (AR)
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 1; Ch. 7 to p. 103.
Readings - Key:
> Pask, G., "The Architectural Relevance of Cybernetics." Architectural Design, (September, 1969), pp.494-496.
• Readings - Reference
> Spong, M. W., Hutchinson W. and Vidyasagar, W. Robot Modeling and Control. NY: Wiley, 2005.

Week 05 09.24 | I ROBOT (I)
Body-Building Robots: Organic-Mechanical, Prosthetic, Dismembered

Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 3, pp. 26-34; Ch. 6; Ch. 12 pp. 180-193.
Readings - Key:
> McHale, J. “Man Plus.” The Future of the Future. NY: George Braziller, 1969.
> Joseph Rykwert , "Organic and Mechanical." Res: Anthropology and aesthetics 22 (Autumn 1992): 11-18.
• Readings - Reference
> Fong, T., Nourbakhsh I. and Dautenhahn, K. “A survey of socially interactive robots.” Robotics and Autonomous Systems 42 (2003) pp. 143-166.
> Breazeal, C. "Social Interactions in HRI: The Robot View." IEEE Transactions in Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, vol. 34, no. 2 May 2004, pp. 181-186.

Week 06 10.01 | I ROBOT (II)
Body-Building Robots: Pygmalion, Protean, Posthuman
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 3, pp. 34-39; Ch. 9, pp. 129-135.
Readings - Key:
> Ovid. "Pygmalion" from the Metamorphoses (8 AD).
> Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. U. Chicago, 1999.

Week 07 10.08 | I ROBOT (III)
Body-Building Robots: How Much Intelligence? Is the Singularity Really Near?
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 7 to p. 103.
Readings - Key:
> Three articles from The Singularity: Special Report, IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 45, No. 6, June 2008:

• Readings - Reference
> Khachadourian, R. "The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?" The New Yorker (Nov. 23, 2015); also available online.

Week 08 10.15 | HABIT-ATIONS (No class Monday)
Architectural Robotics at Homes, Schools, Hospitals, Offices, Vehicles, Space

Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch.s 6, 7, and 8.
Readings - Key:
> McCullough, M. 2004. Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Week 09 10.22 | LIVING ROOMS
Architectural Robotics as Monk's Cells, Boudoirs, and Palaces

Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 3, pp. 26-34, Ch. 6, Ch. 9.
Readings - Key:
> Huysmans, J. K. Against the Grain (A rebours). New York: Dover Publications, 1969.

Striated and Smooth; Physical Forms & Forms of Speech; Kinematics
for AR
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch.7 pp. 107- 125.
Readings - Key:
> Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. Nomadology: The War Machine. Seattle: Wormwood Distribution, 2010. (Focus your reading on the concepts of "striated" and "smooth".)
• Readings - Reference
> Trivedi, D., Rahn, C. D., Kier, W. M. and Walker, I. D. “Soft robotics: Biological inspiration, state of the art, and future research,” Applied Bionics and Biomechanics, Vol. 5, No. 3, September 2008, pp. 99–117.
> Walker, I.D. “Continuous Backbone “Continuum” Robot Manipulators.” ISRN Robotics, Vol. 2013, July 2013, pp. 1-19.
> Yim, M., Shen, W., Salemi, B., Rus, D., Moll, M., Lipson, H., Klavins, E. and Chirikjian, G. (2007) “Modular Self-Reconfigurable Robot Systems; Challenges and Opportunities for the Future,'' IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, March, 2007.

Week 11 11.05 | MEASURES
Design Science, Design Metrics, Wicked Problems, and RtD for AR

Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 7 pp. 103-107.
Readings - Key:
> Frayling, C. Research in Art and Design. Royal College of Art Research Papers 1, 1 (1993): 1-5.
> Zimmerman, J., Forlizzi, J. and Evenson, J. “Research through Design as a Method for Interaction Design Research in HCI.” In Proceedings of CHI '07, the ACM
Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
. New York: ACM, 493-502.

Week 12 11.12 | COGNITION
Distributed Cognition in AR; Cognitive Rooms
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 12, pp. 180-193.
Readings - Key:
> Hutchins, E. Distributed Cognition.
Hollan, J., Hutchins, E., and Kirsh, D. 2000. "Distributed cognition: toward a new foundation for human-computer interaction research." ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 7, 2 (June 2000), 174-196.

Week 13 11.19 | NETWORKS (No class Wednesday)
The Digital Oligarchy, Weak Architecture, and Mesh Networks
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 12, pp. 180-193.
Readings - Key:
> Ignasi de Solá-Morales, “Weak Architecture” in Architecture Theory since 1968, ed. C. Michal Hays (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998

A Vision of Bits, Bytes and Biology: The Garden of Technology
Readings - Architectural Robotics: Ch. 7, pp. 121-126; Ch. 12.
Readings - Key:
> Green, K. E. "The Bio-logic of Architecture." Proceedings of the 2005 ACSA International Conference, Chicago, pp. 522-530.


A S S I G N M E N T S   A N D   G R A D I N G
There are two assignments for this course. The first assignment is accomplished individually and is focused on concept generation; the second assignment is developed in teams of two, three, or four students assembled with respect to affinities found in the concepts generated and presented by individual class members. Topics either will be inspired by the class readings and discussions, or be responses to needs and opportunities identified from current events of fiction. For the latter, you may find inspiration in my paper (co-authored by IS MPS alum, Eric Gendreau, Configurative Design: Reshaping Dystopian Fiction as Preferred, Future States.

Throughout this course—an intimate and intensive “conversation” across students and the professor— students will have ample opportunity to receive feedback on their work.

Assignment 1 | Concept Generation (30% of the course grade; individual effort)

Assignment 2 | Prototype, Video, Docs (60% of the course grade; team effort)

  • your working prototype (20%)
  • your video and digital photos of your prototype (20%)
  • documentation of your design (20%); your documentation includes all of the headings presented in this example from a previous class: (a) a unique name for your prototype, (b) an abstract, (c) a scenario, (d) the operation of the prototype, (e) a list of components, (f) the process of construction, (g) a discussion (of what worked and didn't work), (h) proposal of future work (as a response to your discussion), (i) a link to your video uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo, and (j) the code. Upload your documentation to our shared Google Drive

Requirements for the prototype:

  • It must be to-scale (i.e. "model-size," to permit free exploration across physical scales as compared to a full scale, fully-functional prototype).
  • It must be made interactive by way of sensors and actuators to create combinations of movement, lighting, displays, and sound. You may integrate any manner of input device, actuator, hacked device (e.g. a toy, a camera) and any technological approach (e.g. machine learning, computer vision, AR, ...).
  • It must communicate or otherwise work with at least one project made by another team.
  • The use of digital fabrication is not required to produce the prototype. It's however easy to digitally fabricate components for your prototypes! Our partners for this course are the very friendly and capable D2FS staff in the shop in HEB 2L31. See my course page for DEA 5210 under the heading DIGITAL FABRICATION for instructions on preparing files and requesting an appointment for laser cutting and 3D printing them.

Review carefully the grading rubric for Assignment 2 deliverables.

The final 10% of your course grade is for attendance, participation, and uploading your documentation - your best photos, sketches, and other visual and written products, and the URL to your video - to our shared Google Drive folder. Name files and folders clearly with your name (for assignment 1) and your team name (for assignment 2).

The video [my guide] communicates the full, cohesive story of the designed artifact your team produced, answering why, for whom, and how it was developed, including an overview of the methods used to design and evaluate it. The video will adhere to the requirements for the Video Showcase submission to the benchmark HCI conference, CHI (Human Factors in Computing Systems). Here are videos from previous CHI Video Showcases: 2018, 2017; here are examples from my lab and from my various courses: Helping Hand, ART, AWE, CyberPLAYce, home+, Xtinguish; and here is an example of a hand-drawn WOz video: Marble Answering Machine (Bishop, 1995). Format for video: H.264 encoded MP4, at least 1280px x 720px, at most 5 minutes (2-3 minutes is a more common length), captioned for accessibility in .srt or .sbv format (example video from my lab). Format for the poster: A1 portrait.

In past deliveries of this course, students submitted videos, posters, and papers of individual or collected projects to ACM conferences like DIS (Designing Interactive Systems), TEI (Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction), IDC (Interaction Design and Children), CHI (Human-Computer Interaction), and HRI Human-Robot Interaction; and to IEEE conference like ICRA Robots & Automation, IROS Intelligent Robots & Systems, and RO-MAN  Robot-Man-Systems. We've had some successes, despite stiff competition. For ACM submissions, the calls for the Arts Track and Demos are especially suited to our course products; these calls require a short paper, a video, and the promise to exhibit the project at the conference. For each project, the student designer(s) will be designated first authors and the TA and professor will be designated as, respectively, second-to-last and last author for any conference submission.

By 11:30am on December 11, you will have uploaded digital files of each required deliverable to our class Box file or Google Drive. This time and date is mandated by the department of DEA and will not be changed.