Author: Yang, Lillian
This thesis explores the use of telepresence robots as a communication tool for long distance relationships. While communication between partners can be nuanced and varied, current remote communication tools are limited in the aspects of communication that are supported. The lack of an embodiment creates challenges for maintaining relationships over distance because communication becomes limited to audiovisual interactions. The telepresence robot provides an embodiment through which long distance partners can interact, opening up unique opportunities for engagement. This work explores how real world couples utilize telepresence robots to interact over distance and considers how the findings translate to design implications and considerations. This thesis presents the following three studies in a cumulative format. The first study looks at how telepresence robots are used by long distance couples in the home space. This exploratory field study utilized interviews to collect data while minimizing intrusiveness in the home space. The second study compares the use of telepresence robots versus tablets for the joint activity of shopping as long distance couples. This between-groups study used data from observations and interviews. The third study explores the use of a telepresence robot when paired with voice-controlled devices in a home shared over distance. This autobiographical study collected daily diaries, interviews, and photo/video materials for data. This collection of studies contributes early insights on the use of telepresence robots by long distance couples to support their uniquely demanding communication needs. My findings show that couples use telepresence robots during evening and weekends to spend time together, with the freedom to move around independently. The telepresence robot supports the sense of a shared home and lets partners participate in everyday life. Movement supports not only independence, but also displays of personality and playfulness. This work also underscores the limitations of an appendage-free design, which constrains helpful acts and joint activities. I include a chapter on design considerations before the conclusion chapter. There I discuss the importance of supporting a sense of belonging and ownership in the shared home home space, and a sense of joint participation and variety in activities.
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Thesis advisor: Neustaedter, Carman
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