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Idélab 4.0: teaching robots to have social skills

At the recently organized Idélab, the digitization of the Norwegian market was the topic to be discussed. Hosted by the Norwegian Research Council, Making Waves’ Creative Director, Silje Gabrielsen, helped to develop one of the winning solutions. Hear about how her team worked on a plug-in that aims to give robots the social skills they need to work within human teams.

Idélab 4.0: teaching robots to have social skills

What is Idélab?

Idélab is organized by the Norwegian Research Council on a regular basis. The goal is to find radically new solutions to major societal challenges. The participants consist of 25-30 hand-picked people from different fields of study, who meet for an intense week of working together. Project ideas are developed in collaboration with professional mentors. The best projects are given support for the end of the Idélab.

At Idélab 4.0, the participants worked with the challenges of the manufacturing industry. 28 hand-selected people from both the private-sector and academia worked together for three days to develop groundbreaking ideas based on the opportunities that digitalization presents.


Creative Director Silje Gabrielsen participated on behalf of Making Waves. She thought that Idélab was a very professional event, consisting of a participant group that was well-varied across genders, age, industries and niche knowledge areas.

Silje's group invented the concept of HeiRobot! - a plug-in that gives social skills to existing robots. Silje explains, “Some social skills are important for building a good team of people and robots. Research suggests that the same rules for group dynamics in human-to-human teams also apply within human-to-robot teams. Also, actions that build trust between people have also been shown to build trust between people and machines. Through a plug-in that allows the robot to predict human movements, the robot can provide a better response to human actions. As with interpersonal relationships, a predictable response is a key feature for building trust.”

HeiRobot! was one of four winners at Idélab, and was awarded 4.5 million NOK in support of the Norwegian Research Council, so that the concept can be further developed.


The implementation of Idélab is based on the Sandpit Methodology, a well-tested methodology that has been used at similar events in the UK. The Sandpit Methodology is great for working in intense innovation workshops.

The Sandpit Methodology helps participants to find the group that suits them best. Participants change groups often throughout the process in order to find a position where there skills can best be utilized. Silje Gabrielsen was attending various groups before joining the team behind HeiRobot! Many of the theories that have helped HeiRobot! take shape are based on the research of Audun Sanderud, PhD.

The HeiRobot! team was made up of: Audun Sanderud from PPM, Anders Myhr from Pure Logic AS, Jan Rune Herheim from Lillebakk Engineering, Bernt Sørby from Entail AS, and Silje Gabrielsen from Making Waves.

Learnings on Innovation

Silje Gabrielsen makes three conclusions from the experience:

  • Good facilitation is an important factor in working with innovation processes.
  • Communication in interdisciplinary teams is challenging, and it’s essential the everyone in the group simplifies their language
  • Through well-facilitated processes, where participants actively work with constructive feedback throughout the process, there are positive and safe dynamics that create a strong cohesion between the participants.

We look forward to hearing more about HeiRobot!