A Summer Journey at AI Hub: From Brain Rides to Co-Design Workshops

Takku, a colleague of the Day

This summer, Veronika and Mina had the incredible opportunity to work as research assistants the Tampere University’s AI Hub, where innovation and creativity thrive. We embarked on a unique journey, inventing what we called "Brain Rides" - a novel approach to brainstorming that involved holding meetings while riding bikes or scooters. This unconventional method not only invigorated our minds but also paved the way for a wealth of fresh, innovative ideas. This method helped us stay fresh when the energy levels fell down.

One of the most striking aspects of our time at AI Hub Tampere was the warm and relaxed atmosphere that surrounded the workplace. Even during emergencies, there was no sense of panic or stress. In fact, it was no problem to bring a sick guinea pig to work, ensuring she received the care she needed. Much to everyone’s delight, she even earned the title of “Colleague of the Day” for her impressive performance in the Robostudio. Furthermore, in this flexible and considerable workplace, along with the availability of academic guidance and help all the time during the journey, we learned how to independently define tasks and manage the projects. This is a different approach from the clear step-by-step approach, that we used to follow in uni-course projects.

Mina and Veronika having a Brain Ride

Our days at AI Hub were filled with encounters with both new and familiar robots. Mina was working with Furhat the social robot, who is the newest member of the Robostudio. Mina learned a lot about Furhat; from a new programming language (Kotlin) and what are Furhat’s capabilities and potential, to associating all work with AI. The most interesting part for Mina was the vast knowledge she gained about AI, and especially training AI. Mina gained a lot of knowledge by familiarizing herself with the detailed tutorials provided by Furhat Robotics. In addition, going through all the tutorials on the OpenAI website and reading the latest studies, she developed a deeper understanding of how AI works. Not forgetting the endless possibilities of training AI and associating it with Furhat robot gave her the opportunity to get familiar with the possible limits, ethical problems and challenges of using AI and how to avoid them.

Veronika became best friends with Nao robot, who was sometimes driving her absolutely crazy, however, we always figured things out. Each interaction offered valuable insights and learning experiences. Through it all, we not only gained technical knowledge but also developed a deeper understanding of AI in general, staying up to date with the latest research, studies, and conferences.

Another of the highlights of our summer was being a part of the TAYS Hospital with Ceterio involving a medicine-delivery robot. We first tested and analyzed the robot’s user interface ourselves and then we designed and conducted usability testing of the user interface. Mina then designed initial sketches of the new user interface for the medical-delivery robot based on all the problems and user needs discovered by the usability test while keeping user-centered design and accessibility in mind. This case allowed us to observe both participants and the robot in their natural environment, providing invaluable insights. We delved into the intricacies of industrial robots, conducting thorough analyses and delivering results that exceeded our client’s expectations.

Vero and Mina with the Ceterio medication transportation robot at TAYS

Undoubtedly, Veronika’a most significant project was the collaboration with Utelias Technologies on the Elias Language Application and AI assessment tool. A pivotal moment was the Co-Design Workshop, where Veronika organized a seamless session, complete with thoughtfully prepared Mural canvas tasks, and of course, refreshments could not be missed to ensure participants felt comfortable and engaged. This workshop, part of Veronika’s thesis pre-study, gave her rich insights through semi-structured interviews and surveys, shedding light on the needs of students and teachers in language learning and AI tools. The concept of an AI Augmented Classroom was widely accepted by all participants, which put a green light on the idea of her master’s thesis project. The Utelias Pilot was also a very enjoyable time for Mina as she had an important role in assisting Veronika with observation and taking notes during the workshop while tasting the heavenly homemade cookies and banana bread made by Veronika for the workshop.

In the final leg of our summer adventure, we had dived into the Varala case, where we observed and took notes on school pupils participating in various activities dealing with robots (Furhat, Nao and Pepper). Mina had the chance to assist the researchers with Furhat robot skills and abilities to design the activity for Varala case. Furthermore, this experience provided a platform to put Veronika’s Finnish language skills to the test, ultimately affirming that she possessed a deeper understanding than she had initially thought (Yayy 😊), as she seamlessly kept up with observation and note-taking even when it was in Finnish.

Our time at AI Hub was nothing short of extraordinary. For Veronika, it confirmed the conviction that a career in academia is the path she wishes to pursue, while for Mina it highlighted her interest in UX in industry as a desired job to achieve. From Brain Rides to Co-Design Workshops, from mischievous robots to real-world applications, every step of this journey was a testament to the boundless potential of AI and the limitless opportunities for discovery and innovation that lie ahead.

Thank you for the opportunity to grow as professionals!
Veronika Žigraiová and Mina Honarmandmozafari

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