How can we improve telep­res­ence sys­tems (such as con­fer­ence robots) so they are not just “zoom on wheels” but actu­ally allow users to feel more present and nav­i­gate more easily around remote environments?”

FeetBack: Augmenting Robotic Telepresence with Haptic Feedback on the Feet

Telepresence robots allow people to par­tic­i­pate in remote spaces, yet they can be dif­fi­cult to manoeu­vre with people and obsta­cles around. We designed a haptic-feedback system called “FeetBack,” which users place their feet in when dri­ving a telep­res­ence robot. When the robot approaches people or obsta­cles, haptic prox­im­ity and col­li­sion feed­back are pro­vided on the respec­tive sides of the feet, help­ing inform users about events that are hard to notice through the robot’s camera views. We con­ducted two stud­ies: one to explore the usage of FeetBack in vir­tual envi­ron­ments, another focused on real envi­ron­ments. We found that FeetBack can increase spa­tial pres­ence in simple vir­tual envi­ron­ments. Users valued the feed­back to adjust their behav­iour in both types of envi­ron­ments, though it was some­times too fre­quent or unneeded for cer­tain sit­u­a­tions after a period of time. These results point to the value of foot-based haptic feed­back for telep­res­ence robot sys­tems, while also the need to design context-sensitive haptic feedback

Conference pre­sen­ta­tion at ICMI 2020:

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System overview:

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Jones, B., Maiero, J., Mogharrab, A., Aguliar, I. A., Adhikari, A., Riecke, B. E., Kruijff, E., Neustaedter, C., & Lindeman, R. W. (2020). FeetBack: Augmenting Robotic Telepresence with Haptic Feedback on the Feet. Proceedings of the 2020 International Conference on Multimodal Interaction, 194–203.


How automatic speed control based on distance affects user behaviours in telepresence robot navigation within dense conference-like environments

Telepresence robots allow users to be spa­tially and socially present in remote envi­ron­ments. Yet, it can be chal­leng­ing to remotely oper­ate telep­res­ence robots, espe­cially in dense envi­ron­ments such as aca­d­e­mic con­fer­ences or work­places. In this paper, we pri­mar­ily focus on the effect that a speed con­trol method, which auto­mat­i­cally slows the telep­res­ence robot down when get­ting closer to obsta­cles, has on user behav­iors. In our first user study, par­tic­i­pants drove the robot through a static obsta­cle course with narrow sec­tions. Results indi­cate that the auto­matic speed con­trol method sig­nif­i­cantly decreases the number of col­li­sions. For the second study we designed a more nat­u­ral­is­tic, conference-like exper­i­men­tal envi­ron­ment with tasks that require social inter­ac­tion, and col­lected sub­jec­tive responses from the par­tic­i­pants when they were asked to nav­i­gate through the envi­ron­ment. While about half of the par­tic­i­pants pre­ferred auto­matic speed con­trol because it allowed for smoother and safer nav­i­ga­tion, others did not want to be influ­enced by an auto­matic mech­a­nism. Overall, the results sug­gest that auto­matic speed con­trol sim­pli­fies the user inter­face for telep­res­ence robots in static dense envi­ron­ments, but should be con­sid­ered as option­ally avail­able, espe­cially in sit­u­a­tions involv­ing social interactions.


Batmaz, A. U., Maiero, J., Kruijff, E., Riecke, B. E., Neustaedter, C., & Stuerzlinger, W. (2020). How auto­matic speed con­trol based on dis­tance affects user behav­iours in telep­res­ence robot nav­i­ga­tion within dense conference-like envi­ron­ments. PLOS ONE, 15(11), 1–41.

Geocaching with a Beam: Shared Outdoor Activities through a Telepresence Robot with 360 Degree Viewing

People often enjoy shar­ing out­door activ­i­ties together such as walk­ing and hiking. However, when family and friends are sep­a­rated by dis­tance it can be dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble to share such activ­i­ties. We explore this design space by inves­ti­gat­ing the ben­e­fits and chal­lenges of using a telep­res­ence robot to sup­port out­door leisure activ­i­ties. In our study, par­tic­i­pants par­tic­i­pated in the out­door activ­ity of geo­caching where one person geo­cached with the help of a remote part­ner via a telep­res­ence robot. We com­pared a wide field of view (WFOV) camera to a 360° camera. Results show the ben­e­fits of having a phys­i­cal embod­i­ment and a sense of immer­sion with the 360° view. Yet chal­lenges related to a lack of envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness, safety issues, and pri­vacy con­cerns result­ing from bystander inter­ac­tions. These find­ings illus­trate the need to design telep­res­ence robots with the envi­ron­ment and public in mind to pro­vide an enhanced sen­sory expe­ri­ence while bal­anc­ing safety and pri­vacy issues result­ing from being amongst the gen­eral public.

illus­tra­tion of geo­caching with a telep­res­ence robot

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Heshmat, Y., Jones, B., Xiong, X., Neustaedter, C., Tang, T., Riecke, B. E., & Yang, L. (2018). Geocaching with a Beam: Shared Outdoor Activities through a Telepresence Robot with 360 Degree Viewing. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–13. (Download)