syngva: Encouraging the Expression of the Unspeakable


How can we encourage people to express themselves in new ways? And how do people deal with objects that possess (presumed) agency? These two seemingly unrelated questions are brought together in the design and study of syngva, a robotic creature that moves in response to human non-speech vocal sounds. On the one hand, syngva is a creature that, through its movement, encourages the production of sounds that are otherwise silenced, bringing out what was unspeakable. On the other hand, syngva learns about these sounds over time, changing its motions and therefore prodding people to try different things. Thus, syngva serves as an anthropological probe, enabling us to better understand people's interactions with robotic creatures, while at the same time providing a potential space for unconventional experiences.