December 2016


Nikobot is an interactive expressive robot pet for your desk, a minimal interactive robot that expresses emotion based on command and situation. The shape and concept also revolves around a sort of challenge to convey emotions without using prominent humanoid features like face, spoken words, hand and body gestures.

The entire project was designed, programmed and fabricated from scratch for an ITP course "Physical Computing" as a final project, within 4 week's duration, by Koji Kanao and I.


The initial conceptual sketches show how the robot would look and function. The outer body is shape is a canopy in translucent polymer that contains the robot's "face", and wood as the base which would contain the robot's movement and sound related components. The robots face would be just a simple LED matrix board, that lights up inside the translucent material without exposing the mechanism, hence giving out expressions in the form of light shapes on the body surface.

The concept was just a thought, the function and form changed based on finalization of components, available fabrication facilities and materials. We are also designed an App for the robot, through which the user get access do additional commands and interactions.


The initial prototype was made to build proof of concept and to develop Arduino code that took commands from javascript, HTML web page via serial communication.

Initially we started with programming on Arduino Uno, and then planned to shift everything on a Raspberry Pi for the final concept, but due to cost restrictions had to stick to the Arduino family as it doesn't require special sensors like the Raspberry Pi.

Building The Nikobot

The components used are Arduino 101, Proto Shield, Lithium Poly Batteries, Mini Bread board, IR sensors, LED matrix display, Photocell sensor, Motors

The final prototype had to designed to be compact and minimal with a shape that makes the robot look friendly, to convey the intended experience correctly.

User testing : ITP Winter Show 2016