This article reports observations from a field study in which medical responders used a social telepresence robot to communicate with participants playing the role of a trapped victim in two search and rescue exercises. The interaction between the robot, victims, and responders suggests the coexistence of two distinct social identities for the robot. One which is a pure conduit for the remote medic, and another in which the robot is treated as an independent social actor. Participants acting as victims demonstrated fluidity in interacting with each identity. The social identify of a robot has important implications for the development of future telepresence systems, particularly in the healthcare domain. Since victims in the exercises gave attention to both the robot and the remote medic, it is possible that the robot’s social actor role may divert attention from the remotely connected individual. The work provides a starting point for investigation of role conflict between a remote medical professional and the robot they are using to assist a patient.
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