Skip to content
BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access January 16, 2015

Accessible Human-Robot Interaction for Telepresence Robots: A Case Study

  • Katherine M. Tsui , James M. Dalphond , Daniel J. Brooks , Mikhail S. Medvedev , Eric McCann , Jordan Allspaw , David Kontak and Holly A. Yanco


The quality of life of people with special needs, such as residents of healthcare facilities, may be improved through operating social telepresence robots that provide the ability to participate in remote activities with friends or family. However, to date, such platforms do not exist for this population.

Methodology: Our research utilized an iterative, bottomup, user-centered approach, drawing upon our assistive robotics experiences. Based on the findings of our formative user studies, we developed an augmented reality user interface for our social telepresence robot. Our user interface focuses primarily on the human-human interaction and communication through video, providing support for semi-autonomous navigation. We conducted a case study (n=4) with our target population in which the robot was used to visit a remote art gallery.

Results: All of the participants were able to operate the robot to explore the gallery, form opinions about the exhibits, and engage in conversation.

Significance: This case study demonstrates that people from our target population can successfully engage in the active role of operating a telepresence robot.


[1] R. Aipperspach, E. Cohen, and J. Canny. Modeling human behavior from simple sensors in the home. Pervasive Computing, pages 337–348, 2006. 10.1007/11748625_21Search in Google Scholar

[2] F. Amirabdollahian, S. Bedaf, R. Bormann, H. Draper, V. Evers, J. G. Pérez, G. J. Gelderblom, C. G. Ruiz, D. Hewson, N. Hu, et al. Assistive technology design and development for acceptable robotics companions for ageing years. Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 4(2):94–112, 2013. 10.2478/pjbr-2013-0007Search in Google Scholar

[3] Associated Press. Robot rep goes to school. Wired, June 6 2006. 06/71078. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[4] J. Beer and L. Takayama. Mobile remote presence systems for older adults: Acceptance, benefits, and concerns. In Proc. of the 6th Intl. Conf. on Human-Robot Interaction, pages 19–26. ACM, 2011. 10.1145/1957656.1957665Search in Google Scholar

[5] E. Bergman and E. Johnson. Towards accessible humancomputer interaction. Advances in human-computer interaction, 5(1), 1995. Search in Google Scholar

[6] R. Bevilacqua, A. Cesta, G. Cortellessa, A. Macchione, A. Orlandini, and L. Tiberio. Telepresence robot at home: A long-term case study. In Ambient Assisted Living: Italian Forum 2013, pages 73–85. Springer International Publishing, 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[7] G. Carruthers. Is the body schema suflcient for the sense of embodiment? an alternative to de Vignemont’s model. Philosophical Psychology, 22(2):123–142, 2009. 10.1080/09515080902802785Search in Google Scholar

[8] J. Casper and R. Murphy. Human-robot interactions during the robot-assisted urban search and rescue response at the world trade center. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Part B: Cybernetics, 33(3):367–385, 2003. 10.1109/TSMCB.2003.811794Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[9] CastingWords. Audio transcription services: MP3s, video and more... Webpage, 2014. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[10] R. Chellali and K. Baizid. What maps and what displays for remote situation awareness and ROV localization? In Human Interface and the Management of Information. Interacting with Information, pages 364–372. Springer, 2011. 10.1007/978-3-642-21669-5_43Search in Google Scholar

[11] J. Y. Chen, E. C. Haas, and M. J. Barnes. Human performance issues and user interface design for teleoperated robots. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Part C: Applications and Reviews, 37(6):1231–1245, 2007. 10.1109/TSMCC.2007.905819Search in Google Scholar

[12] R. A. Cooper. Quality-of-life technology. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, 27(2):10, 2008. 10.1109/EMB.2008.915492Search in Google Scholar

[13] S. Coradeschi, A. Loutfi, A. Kristoffersson, S. Von Rump, A. Cesta, and G. Cortellessa. Towards a Methodology for Longitudinal Evaluation of Social Robotic Telepresence for Elderly. In Proc. of Human-Robot Interaction Workshop on Social Robotic Telepresence, 2011. 10.1145/1957656.1957660Search in Google Scholar

[14] M. Desai, K. Tsui, H. Yanco, and C. Uhlik. Essential features of telepresence robots. In Proc. of the IEEE Conf. on Technologies for Practical Robot Applications (TePRA), 2011. 10.1109/TEPRA.2011.5753474Search in Google Scholar

[15] J. V. Draper, D. B. Kaber, and J. M. Usher. Telepresence. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 40(3):354–375, 1998. 10.1518/001872098779591386Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[16] H. Evans. Exploring robots for accessibility, in Seattle. Webpage, May 6 2014. 2014/05/exploring-robots-for-accessibility-in.html. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[17] D. Fels, L. Williams, G. Smith, J. Treviranus, and R. Eagleson. Developing a Video-mediated Communication System for Hospitalized Children. Telemedicine Journal, 5(2):193–208, 1999. 10.1089/107830299312168Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[18] D. Fels, J. Waalen, S. Zhai, and P. Weiss. Telepresence Under Exceptional Circumstances: Enriching the Connection to School for Sick Children. Proc. of IFIP INTERACT01: Human- Computer Interaction, pages 617–624, 2001. Search in Google Scholar

[19] R. Fish, R. Kraut, R. Root, and R. Rice. Evaluating video as a technology for informal communication. In Proc. of the SIGCHI Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 37–48. ACM, 1992. 10.1145/142750.142755Search in Google Scholar

[20] J. Fitzgerald. After Surgery, A Robot May Be at Your Side. The Boston Globe, December 12 2011. makes_house_calls. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[21] N. Fliesler. A Roving Eye: Home Health Monitoring with Robotic Systems. Webpage, December 26 2011. http: // monitoring-with-robotic-systems. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[22] T. Fong and C. Thorpe. Vehicle teleoperation interfaces. Autonomous Robots, 11(1):9–18, 2001. 10.1023/A:1011295826834Search in Google Scholar

[23] J. J. Gibson. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1979. Search in Google Scholar

[24] Giraff Technologies AB. giraff. Webpage, 2014. http://www. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[25] M. Gonzalez, C. Hidalgo, and A. Barabasi. Understanding individual human mobility patterns. Nature, 453(7196):779– 782, 2008. 10.1038/nature06958Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[26] M. Gorman. Suitable technologies introduces beam, the remote presence device. Webpage, September 26 2012. suitable-technologies. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[27] C. M. Gridley, A. B. Retik, B. Cilento, and H. T. Nguyen. In-home robots can effectively engage children and their parents in post-operative care, and allow for cost-eflcient remote physician monitoring. In American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, October 20 2012. Session abstract. html. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[28] E. Guizzo. When My Avatar Went to Work. IEEE Spectrum, September 22 2010. industrial-robots/when-my-avatar-went-to-work. Accessed Dec. 2014. 10.1109/MSPEC.2010.5557512Search in Google Scholar

[29] H. Haas. The influence of a single echo on the audibility of speech. J. Audio Eng. Soc., 20(2):146–159, 1972. Search in Google Scholar

[30] M. Hassenzahl. User Experience and Experience Design. Webpage, 2014. user_experience_and_experience_design.html; chapter 3. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[31] G. J. Hole, P. A. George, K. Eaves, A. Rasek, et al. Effects of geometric distortions on face-recognition performance. Perception-London, 31(10):1221–1240, 2002. 10.1068/p3252Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[32] R. Hoover. The Force is Strong with NASA’s Smartphone- Powered Satellite, July 8 2011. pages/station/main/spheres_smartphone.html. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[33] IBM Centres for Solution Innovation. Telbotics – PEBBLES, 2008. Telebotics%20PEBBLES.pdf. Accessed Dec. 2104. Search in Google Scholar

[34] W. A. IJsselsteijn, H. de Ridder, J. Freeman, and S. E. Avons. Presence: concept, determinants, and measurement. In Electronic Imaging, pages 520–529. International Society for Optics and Photonics, 2000. 10.1117/12.387188Search in Google Scholar

[35] E. Kac. Live from Mars. Leonardo, 31(1):1–2, 1998. ISSN 0024-094X. Search in Google Scholar

[36] S. Kiesler, A. Powers, S. Fussell, and C. Torrey. Anthropomorphic interactions with a robot and robot-like agent. Social Cognition, 26(2):169–181, 2008. 10.1521/soco.2008.26.2.169Search in Google Scholar

[37] D. Kim, R. Hazlett-Knudsen, H. Culver-Godfrey, G. Rucks, T. Cunningham, D. Portee, J. Bricout, Z. Wang, and A. Behal. How autonomy impacts performance and satisfaction: Results from a study with spinal cord injured subjects using an assistive robot. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part A: Systems and Humans, 42(1):2–14, 2012. Search in Google Scholar

[38] K. Koffka. Principles of Gestalt psychology. Routledge, 4 edition, 2013. 10.4324/9781315009292Search in Google Scholar

[39] Z. G. Kotala. Robotic Arm’s Big Flaw: Patients Say It’s ’Too Easy’. Webpage, September 23 2010. robotic-arms-big-flaw-patients-say-its-too-easy. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[40] A. Kristoffersson, S. Coradeschi, K. S. Eklundh, and A. Loutfi. Towards measuring quality of interaction in mobile robotic telepresence using sociometric badges. Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 4(1):34–48, 2013. 10.2478/pjbr-2013-0005Search in Google Scholar

[41] A. Kristoffersson, S. Coradeschi, and A. Loutfi. A review of mobile robotic telepresence. Advances in Human-Computer Interaction, 2013. 10.1155/2013/902316Search in Google Scholar

[42] S. Kurniawan and P. Zaphiris. Research-derived web design guidelines for older people. In Proceedings of the 7th international ACM SIGACCESS conference on Computers and accessibility, pages 129–135. ACM, 2005. 10.1145/1090785.1090810Search in Google Scholar

[43] L. Lewington. Robots explore Tate Britain’s artwork after dark. Webpage, August 12 2014. technology-28742582. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[44] A. Lindgren-Streicher and C. Reich. Visitor experience monitoring project: Fiscal year 2010 report. 2011. Search in Google Scholar

[45] M. Lombard and T. Ditton. At the heart of it all: The concept of presence. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 3(2): 0–0, 1997. Search in Google Scholar

[46] K. Massie. Headline classroom robots make school possible for home-bound students. Webpage, April 5 2014. http://www. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[47] M. Micire. Evolution and field performance of a rescue robot. Journal of Field Robotics, 25(1-2):17–30, 2008. 10.1002/rob.20218Search in Google Scholar

[48] M. J. Micire. Multi-Touch Interaction for Robot Command and Control. PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts Lowell, December 2010. 10.1145/1502650.1502712Search in Google Scholar

[49] G. Miller and J. Licklider. The intelligibility of interrupted speech. J. of the Acoustical Soc. of Amer., 1950. 10.1121/1.1906584Search in Google Scholar

[50] M. R. Mine, F. P. Brooks Jr, and C. H. Sequin. Moving objects in space: Exploiting proprioception in virtual-environment interaction. In Proceedings of the 24th annual conference on Computer graphics and interactive techniques, pages 19–26. ACM Press/Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1997. 10.1145/258734.258747Search in Google Scholar

[51] J. Nielsen. Usability Engineering. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann, 1993. ISBN 0-12-518406-9. Search in Google Scholar

[52] J. Nielsen. Enhancing the explanatory power of usability heuristics. In SIGCHI Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 152–158, 1994. 10.1145/191666.191729Search in Google Scholar

[53] J. Nielsen. 10 usability heuristics for user interface design. Webpage, January 1 1995. ten-usability-heuristics. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[54] D. Norman. How might people interact with agents. Communications of the ACM, 37(7):68–71, 1994. 10.1145/176789.176796Search in Google Scholar

[55] D. A. Norman. The design of everyday things. Basic books, 2002. Search in Google Scholar

[56] K. Pernice and J. Nielsen. Usability guidelines for accessible web design. Technical report, Nielsen Norman Group, 48105 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont, CA 94539-7498 USA, 2001. http: // design; originally titled Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users with Disabilities. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[57] I. Rhee, M. Shin, S. Hong, K. Lee, S. Kim, and S. Chong. On the Levy-walk nature of human mobility. IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking (TON), 19(3):630–643, 2011. 10.1109/TNET.2011.2120618Search in Google Scholar

[58] L. Richards. I, Student. Homebound Teen is Attending Classes via Wheel-bound Robot. Webpage, January 19 2011. http: // Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[59] L. D. Riek. Realizing Hinokio: candidate requirements for physical avatar systems. In Proceedings of the ACM/IEEE international conference on Human-robot interaction, pages 303–308. ACM, 2007. 10.1145/1228716.1228757Search in Google Scholar

[60] G. Riva, F. Davide, and W. A. IJsselsteijn. Being there: Concepts, effects and measurements of user presence in synthetic environments. Ios Press, 2003. Search in Google Scholar

[61] J. Rosenberg. Quality matters. United Communications magazine, August 2010. articles/99344-quality-matters.htm. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[62] R. Rubin, A. Rubin, E. Graham, E. Perse, and D. Seibold. Communication Research Measures II: A Sourcebook. Routledge, Taylor & Francis, 2009. 10.4324/9780203871539Search in Google Scholar

[63] Ryerson University. PEBBLES. Webpage, 2011. http://www. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[64] R. Schulz, S. R. Beach, J. T. Matthews, K. L. Courtney, and A. De Vito Dabbs. Designing and evaluating quality of life technologies: An interdisciplinary approach. Proceedings of the IEEE, 100(8):2397–2409, 2012. Search in Google Scholar

[65] B. Shneiderman. Direct manipulation: A step beyond programming languages. Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, page 17, 1993. Search in Google Scholar

[66] D. Sirkin, G. Venolia, J. Tang, G. Robertson, T. Kim, K. Inkpen, M. Sedlins, B. Lee, and M. Sinclair. Motion and attention in a kinetic videoconferencing proxy. In Human-Computer Interaction–INTERACT 2011, pages 162–180. Springer, 2011. 10.1007/978-3-642-23774-4_16Search in Google Scholar

[67] Suitable Technologies. How beam works. Webpage, 2014. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[68] Suitable Technologies, Inc. Shelbot (aka Shelbot), January 9 2013. bot. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[69] L. Takayama. Toward making robots invisible-in-use. New Frontiers in Human-Robot Interaction, 2, 2011. 10.1075/ais.2.08takSearch in Google Scholar

[70] R. Toris and B. Alexander. The Standard ROS JavaScript Library, June 11 2014. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[71] K. Tsui, M. Desai, H. Yanco, and C. Uhlik. Exploring use cases for telepresence robots. In Proc. of Intl. Conf. on HRI. ACM/IEEE, 2011. 10.1145/1957656.1957664Search in Google Scholar

[72] K. Tsui, A. Norton, D. Brooks, H. Yanco, and D. Kontak. Designing telepresence robot systems for use by people with special needs. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Quality of Life Technologies 2011: Intelligent Systems for Better Living, held in conjunction with RESNA 2011 as part of FICCDAT, 2011. Search in Google Scholar

[73] K. M. Tsui. Design and evaluation of a visual control interface of a wheelchair robotic arm for users with cognitive impairments. Master’s thesis, University of Massachusetts Lowell, May 2008. 10.1145/1349822.1349837Search in Google Scholar

[74] K. M. Tsui. The Development of Telepresence Robots for People with Disabilities. PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts Lowell, April 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[75] K. M. Tsui and H. A. Yanco. Design challenges and guidelines for social interaction using mobile telepresence robots. Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics, 9(1):227–301, 2013. 10.1177/1557234X13502462Search in Google Scholar

[76] K. M. Tsui, K. Abu-Zahra, R. Casipe, J. M’Sadoques, and J. L. Drury. A Process for Developing Specialized Heuristics: Case Study in Assistive Robotics. Technical report, University of Massachusetts Lowell, 2009. Available at http://teaching.cs. Search in Google Scholar

[77] K. M. Tsui, K. Abu-Zahra, R. Casipe, J. M’Sadoques, and J. L. Drury. Developing Heuristics for Assistive Robotics. In Proc. of Intl. Conf. on HRI. ACM/IEEE, 2010. Late breaking paper. 10.1109/HRI.2010.5453198Search in Google Scholar

[78] K. M. Tsui, M. Desai, and H. Yanco. Towards Measuring the Quality of Interaction: Communication through Telepresence Robots. In Proc. of the Performance Metrics for Intelligent Systems Workshop (PerMIS), 2012. 10.1145/2393091.2393112Search in Google Scholar

[79] K. M. Tsui, K. Flynn, A. McHugh, H. A. Yanco, and D. Kontak. Designing speech-based interfaces for telepresence robots for people with disabilities. In IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR), 2013. 10.1109/ICORR.2013.6650399Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[80] K. M. Tsui, E. McCann, A. McHugh, M. Medvedev, H. A. Yanco, D. Kontak, and J. L. Drury. Towards designing telepresence robot navigation for people with disabilities. International Journal of Intelligent Computing and Cybernetics, 7(3):307– 344, 2014. 10.1108/IJICC-10-2013-0044Search in Google Scholar

[81] K. M. Tsui, A. Norton, D. J. Brooks, E. McCann, M. S. Medvedev, J. Allspaw, S. Suksawat, J. M. Dalphond, M. Lunderville, and H. A. Yanco. Iterative design of a semi-autonomous social telepresence robot research platform: a chronology. Intelligent Service Robotics, 7(2):103–119, 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[82] K. Urrutia. Creating a CSS3 pulsating circle. Webpage, January 24 2012. creating-a-css3-pulsating-circle. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[83] G. Vanderheiden and K. Vanderheiden. Guidelines for the design of consumer products to increase their accessibility to persons with disabilities or who are aging. Webpage, 1992. toc.htm; working draft v1.7. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[84] P. Vespa. Multimodality Monitoring and Telemonitoring in Neurocritical Care: From Microdialysis to Robotic telepresence. Current Opinion in Critical Care, 11(2):133, 2005. ISSN 1070- 5295. Search in Google Scholar

[85] P. Vespa, C. Miller, X. Hu, V. Nenov, F. Buxey, and N. Martin. Intensive Care Unit Robotic Telepresence Facilitates Rapid Physician Response to Unstable Patients and Decreased Cost in Neurointensive Care. Surgical Neurology, 67(4):331–337, 2007. ISSN 0090-3019. 10.1016/j.surneu.2006.12.042Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[86] VGo Communications, Inc. VGo robotic telepresence for healthcare, education and business, 2014. http://www. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[87] W3C. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Webpage, December 11 2008. 20081211. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[88] W3C. User agent accessibility guidelines (UAAG) 2.0. Webpage, November 7 2013. 20131107; draft. Accessed Dec. 2014. Search in Google Scholar

[89] J. Wineman, J. Peponis, and R. Conroy Dalton. Exploring, engaging, understanding in museums. In Proceedings of the Space Syntax and Spatial Cognition Workshop: Spatial Cognition ’06. Springer, 2006. Monograph Series of the Transregional Collaborative Research Center. Universität Bremen, Bremen. Search in Google Scholar

[90] H. A. Yanco, H. J. Kim, F. G. Martin, and L. Silka. Artbotics: Combining art and robotics to broaden participation in computing. In AAAI Spring Symposium on Robots and Robot Venues: Resources for AI Education, 2007. Search in Google Scholar

[91] S. Yarosh and P. Markopoulos. Design of an Instrument for the Evaluation of Communication Technologies with Children. In Proc. of the 9th Intl. Conf. on Interaction Design and Children, pages 266–269. ACM, 2010. 10.1145/1810543.1810587Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2014-10-1
Accepted: 2014-12-26
Published Online: 2015-1-16

© 2015 Katherine M. Tsui et al.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

Downloaded on 25.2.2024 from
Scroll to top button