An exploration of Mobile Robotic Telepresence and its place in the hybrid office.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Computer Science

Abstract

This PhD explores to what capacity Mobile Robotic Telepresence (MRP) is able to effectively mediate communication and what its value might be in the future or hybrid work. MRPs are video conferencing systems that utilise a remotely controlled robotic base to allow the user to autonomously move in space and have an embodied physical presence. The technology has been used in a wide variety of settings (hospitals, schools, offices) but has so far not succeeded in becoming mainstream. Despite breadth of research on MRP, few studies have applied an ethnomethodologically-informed ethnographic approach to the subject, so there is a lack of reports on the interactional details of use, which would provide a deeper understanding on how the medium supports or hinders interaction.

The research in this PhD is primarily conducted through qualitative methods, including interviews and surveys, and centred around ethnographic, in-depth examinations of how interactions via MRP are organised. A semi-structured interview study of long term and expert users presents the phenomenology of being a remote MRP user, and puts the literature review findings into context. An observation study, of remote and local MRP users performing a collaborative task, highlights the prominence of help soliciting interactions and unpacks how those are conducted via the asymmetrical medium of MRP. Then an autobiographical, longitudinal ethnographic study of MRP use in the home explores the phenomenon of `mediated visiting' and unpacks the more `procedural' elements of interactions---arriving and departing---alongside ways of `dwelling' together during a visit, and the qualities of mobility, autonomous presence and spontaneity that emerge. Finally, an ongoing study of MRP use in an office documents the rollout process and tracks users' attitudes and experiences, with the aim of identifying the benefits and limitations of robotic telepresence in the new hybrid work environment and examining how it might fit in the technological ecosystem of the office.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S513854/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2366181 Studentship EP/S513854/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2023 Andriana Boudouraki