Designerly Pick and Place: Coding Physical Model Making to Inform Material-Based Robotic Interaction

  • Daniel SmithwickEmail author
  • David Kirsh
  • Larry Sass
Conference paper


To study how designers explore ideas when making physical models we ran an experiment in which architects and undergraduate students constructed a dream house made of blocks. We coded their interactions in terms of robotic pick and place actions: adding, subtracting, modifying and relocating blocks. Architects differed from students along three dimensions. First, architects were more controlled with the blocks; they used fewer blocks overall and fewer variations. Second, architects appear to think less about house features and more about spatial relationships and material constraints. Lastly, architects experiment with multiple block positions within the model more frequently, repeatedly testing block placements. Together these findings suggest that architects physically explore the design space more effectively than students by exploiting material interactions. This embodied know-how is something next generation robots will need to support. Implications for material-based robotic interaction are discussed.


Modify Interaction Perceptual Action Material Interaction Interaction Sequence Verbal Protocol 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank the MIT-SUTD International Design Center for funding this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Smithwick
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • David Kirsh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Larry Sass
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.MIT-SUTD International Design CenterSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.MITCambridgeUSA

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