So, what was the goal for developing Pluto, the child-sized
orange hospital robot? Simon explains that the main aim was to
allow nurses to spend more time with their patients. Now,
he's working at on one of ABB's research departments developing all
new systems and products.
"We are researching how to develop new products, always with a
clear focus on user needs", he says. "What we are working on
is not products and services that will be released on the market
tomorrow, we are looking to the future and always have a long-term
ABB is a large, international company that manufactures robots,
process management systems, engines and control systems, among
other things. Simon cannot not say exactly what kind of products,
systems and services he's working on at the moment, as these are
What's the best thing about your job?
"That I get to try to figure out how to make the world better by
helping people through using technology solutions. And that I get
to do it in a very nice team in a company that works with very
interesting technologies and big issues."
Robot project in hospital environment
What led Simon to the job, right after graduation, was his final
school project. For his thesis on the Master's
Programme in Advanced Product Design, Simon developed a concept
for a hospital robot. The project was done in collaboration with
ABB, University Hospital of Umeå and Karolinska University
"I had the opportunity to go into the hospital environment and
shadow nurses in seven different departments and interview them
about their work, to learn what problems they face in their
everyday lives. The approach is based on a methodology tha aims to
understand the user's needs, the problems that people encounter,
and then trying to design products and services that actually help
Health care staff were invited to workshops at Umeå Institute of
Design. Together with them, Simon decided to design a solution
towards one of the basic routine tasks carried out by assistant
nurses. That is to refill hand sanitizer, aprons and other hygiene
items that, according to the requirements of the National Board of
Health, must be found in all patients' rooms.
Simon Linge's hospital robo Pluto at
"These are tasks that today mainly fall on the assitant nurses.
Wonderful people with lots of empathy and medical skills who are
passionate about helping people. But, a lot of their skills do not
come into use because they have to spend a lot of time doing
menial, repetivtive tasks. I identified a scenario where a robot
can come in and relieve the most basic tasks so that the nurses can
get more involved with their patients. Empathy is an important
skill. A robot cannot express empathy, but it can support health
care staff in many other moments that actually distract us from
engaging with each other."
> Read more about
Simon's degree project
Simon's design is a concept, not a fully functioning robot. He
believes it will probably be a long time before such health care
robots are scurrying around hospital corridors carrying out
practical chores such as refilling medication, mopping floors and
helping with heavy lifting. But, he himself believes in a future
where robots are performing such routine tasks. He's more skeptical
about the possibility of social robots, for example as companions
to the elderly. Why should robots do what humans do better, he
Methodology for developing products
How do you think your studies have prepared you for your job
"The studies have prepared me really very well. There are two
things I mainly brought with me, professional skill in industrial
design and the methodology for developing products with a clear
Did you join the bachelor's programme in industrial design
in Umeå as well?
"No, I took my bachelor at the industrial design programme at the
Lund University of Technology. First, I started to major in civil
engineering, but dropped out after a few weeks and chose industrial
design instead. It was a very broad education, focusing on
materials, mechanics and broaer engineering skills but also a lot
of artistic focus. Among other things, life drawing, painting and
semiotics (the teaching of signs and symbols).
Did you come directly from high school?
"No, I had done some other things before, including working for a
year at the production line at Volvo in Olofström. Ironically, I
worked alongside ABB robots meaning that I have, sort of, come full
circle now that I work with research on robotics at ABB."
How will you remember your study time in Umeå?
"It was intense, and so much fun! I learned so much, met lovely
people and developed a lot, both as a designer and a person. I also
now notice the difference in how I think compared to when I started
at UID. The education in Umeå is very close to reality and the
industry. You work in collaboration with companies, meet their
designers and managers, go out and do user studies while working on
actual real-life projects. For example, we worked with Atlas Copco
developing hydraulic tools, collaborated with the police department
on an infrared 3D scanner, with Umeå Energi on an energy storage
project and with the University Hospital of Umeå on a hygienic
water tap. We really got to work with real things that matter in
Interview: Ann-Lena Lindskog