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CREATIVITY in children with Robots

Ph.D. thesis by Patrícia Alves-Oliveira under my supervision, Ana Paiva & Guy Hoffman

REFERENCE: SFRH/BD/110223/2015

YEARS: 2019-2022

Creativity is one of the most important and desired nowadays’ abilities as most developed societies are shifting from an industrialized economy to a creative economy. Creativity can also be developed and improved. 

A Robot entitled "YOLO" was designed, created and then tested in schools and summer camps to examine its effectiveness in fostering convergent and divergent thinking in children, two important forms of creative thought. 

YOLO stands for "Your Own Living Object". This robot is meant to be part of a new generation of technological toys designed to foster creativity in children during play. 

The video "The Medal" is a story created by a child during her playful interaction with robot YOLO (while participating in the research studies testing the efficacy of the robot in fostering creativity). The video was developed based on the child's story to give life to the creative story. 

Patrícia Alves Oliveira's doctoral thesis was outstanding, and in addition to several scientific publications from the empirical studies conducted under my supervision, Ana Paiva and Guy Hoffman, the software and hardware of the robot were published, along with guidelines for the design of robots co-constructed with children and grounded in theory.


The design of the YOLO Robot was developed, grounded on creativity research literature and on iterative co-design sessions with children. Throughout 3 years, a robot was created, fabricated, and develop to foster creative-driven behaviors in children. Guidelines for the design of robots for children-robot design are proposed (read publication)

Watch the presentation of Patrícia Alves-Oliveira at the Human-Robot Interaction Conference in 2021 (the paper received BEST PAPER AWARD in Design)

Both Hardware and Software of the robot were created and published in open access in scientific journals, and the robot was licensed under the CC Attribution 4.0 International. The Github platform includes product information and a wiki page at Github was created to help the user install, run, and improve the software that controls the YOLO robot.

- The installation guide directs users on how to install the current software version of YOLO

- The API documentation guides on how to produce programs using YOLO and improve the functioning of the current version of the software.

- Both Software and Hardware were published in peer-review articles

All the instructions on how to build this robot are available for the general community.

Many tutorial videos were developed and posted on Youtube by Patrícia Alves-Oliveira to facilitate its development. Examples: How to heat brass inserts (3:11); How to cut and drill a circuit board (5:42); How to hack a mouse (4:23); How to attach glowing fibers (3:26). See also her website.  



Patrícia Arriaga (ISCTE-IUL)
Ana Paiva (
Instituto Superior Técnico”, University of Lisbon)
Guy Hoffman, 
Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (Cornel University)



Margarida Antunes, Ana Bispo, Ankita Chandak, Albert Chu, Ian Cloutier, Rebecca Cooper, Matthew A. Cronin, Samuel Gomes, Priyanka Kompella, Beatriz Maia, Diogo Martins, Peter Moegenburg, Daniel Mota, Andreia Nóbrega, Sara Ibérico Nogueira, Daniela Nunes, André Pires, Isabel Valverde, Carla Xavier


  • Alves.Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Xavier, C., Hoffman, & G., Paiva, A. (2022). Creativity landscapes: Systematic review spanning 70 Years of creativity interventions for children. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 56 (1), 16-40. 
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Gomes, S., Chandak, A., Arriaga, P., Hoffman, G., Paiva, A. (2020). Software architecture for YOLO, a creativity-stimulating robot. Software X, 11, 100461 
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Paiva, A., & Hoffman, G. (2019). Guide to build YOLO, a creativity-stimulating robot for children. Hardware X, 6 (e00074), 1-15.  
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Ibérico-Nogueira, S., & Paiva, A. (2021). Robotics-Based Interventions for Children’s Creativity. Proceedings of the ACM Creativity & Cognition 2021.  (Foram aceites 33 artigos entre 143).  
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Hoffman, G., & Paiva, A. (2021). Children as Robot Designers. In 16th ACM/IEEE Human-Robot Interaction Conference (HRI), pp. 399-408, (BEST PAPER AWARD) HRI, Rank: A2 (QUALIS Conference Ranking)]
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Oliveira, R., Arriaga, P., Paiva, A., Martinho, C. (2021). Inspiring Social Creativity in Children with a Digital Tool. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC 2021), pp. 149-157. Association for Computational Creativity. ISBN: 978-989-54160-3-5. Em
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Cronin, M. A., & Paiva, A. (2020). Creativity Encounters Between Children and Robots. In 15th ACM/IEEE Human-Robot Interaction Conference (HRI), March 23–26, 2020, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Paiva, A., & Hoffman, G. (2020) . YOLO — Your Own Living Object. In Companion of the 15th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI ’20 Companion), March 23–26, 2020, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Paiva, A., & Hoffman, G. (2017). YOLO, a robot for creativity: A Co-Design Study with Children. IDC '17 Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children, Logo: The Next 50 Years (pp. 423-429). 
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Hoffman, G., & Paiva, A. (2016). Boosting children's creativity through creative interactions with social robots. Proceedings of the 11th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI 2016), pp. 591-592. Https://
  • Alves-Oliveira, P., Arriaga, P., Hoffman, G., & Paiva, A. (2019).  Social robots for creativity stimulation in children. In RSS Pioneers workshop at Robotics Science and Systems Conference, RSS. Freiburg, Germany. 
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