Tofu Overview

Tofu was our one of the first robots made to be durable, friendly, and expressive. Robots that are made to interact and play with kids must have a host of expressions and animacy capabilities that are not present in the current robotic market. Tofu was our first exploration into the design of robots that fit this category of needs.

A New Type of Personal Companion

TOFU is a project to explore new ways of robotic social expression by leveraging techniques that have been used in 2d animation for decades. Disney Animation Studios pioneered animation tools such as “squash and stretch” and “secondary motion” in the 50’s. Such techniques have since been used widely by animators, but are not commonly used to design robots. TOFU, who is named after the squashing and stretching food product, can also squash and stretch. Clever use of compliant materials and elastic coupling, provide an actuation method that is vibrant yet robust. Instead of using eyes actuated by motors, TOFU uses inexpensive OLED displays, which offer highly dynamic and lifelike motion.

Tofu was an exploration into mechanism design to create animate creatures that exhibit squash and stretch behavior. John Lasseter described the squash-and-stretch  animation technique as one of the “fundamental principles of traditional animation.”  Ryan Wistort was the primary investigator for this robot and the mechanical lessons that were learned were passed on to our subsequent robots, Mochi, Dragonbot and Tega.


  • Ryan Wistort, Cynthia Breazeal (2009). TOFU: a socially expressive robot character for child interaction. Proceedings of Interaction Design and Children 2009: 292-293

Squishy, stretchy, and durable robots for kids!