The goal of this project is to gain a deeper understanding of mobile remote presence systems (MRPs) and to create guidelines for their effective design, development, and adaptation into organizational use. MRP systems enable embodied mediated communication in which individuals at a remote location connect to a local robot that is used to physically navigate in the local environment and to interact with local users via audio and video. MRP systems allow remote users to visit individuals in an organization and attend group meetings, seminars, and social gatherings in the local environment. MRPs enable new forms of interactions and offer remote users an improved sense of presence compared with stationary video-conferencing systems.
The project will study the use of MRPs in communication from an interdisciplinary approach drawing from and building on knowledge and methods from design, social and cognitive psychology, communication studies, and computer science. A series of field and laboratory studies will focus on four topics: (a) how remote users present themselves through MRPs; (b) how local users perceive remote users; (c) the role that social cues play in embodied mediated communication; and (d) the social and organizational outcomes of embodied mediated communication.
Intellectual merit: The project will advance understanding of the role of embodiment in mediated communication in collaborative work and inform the design of future mobile remote presence systems. In addition, the results will contribute to basic science in human-computer and human-robot interaction.
Broader impact: The results will enable more effective embodied mediated communication in organizations, thereby improving collaboration in distributed work groups. The results will also inform the development of tools that help individuals with mobility-related disabilities interact with their social and professional communities. In addition, the project will enhance the undergraduate and graduate curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and there will be an outreach program to disperse interdisciplinary knowledge in and methods for designing robotic technology into K-12 education through an annual summer camp and biannual daylong workshops.