Design Thinking Research

Part of the series Understanding Innovation pp 173-187


Communicating Meaning and Role in Distributed Design Collaboration: How Crowdsourced Users Help Inform the Design of Telepresence Robotics

  • David SirkinAffiliated withCenter for Design Research, Stanford University
  • , Wendy JuAffiliated withCenter for Design Research, Stanford University
  • , Mark CutkoskyAffiliated withCenter for Design Research, Stanford University Email author 

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Design has been described as a conversation: with the problem that is being addressed, with materials and artifacts, with our colleagues and ourselves. The language of this conversation is made up of words and images, actions and behaviors. Focusing on the role of gesture in design collaboration, we ran two studies to explore how embodied telepresence robots, or physical avatars, can support better communication in distributed teams. The studies drew upon crowdsourced study participants to provide their impressions of: (1) the meaning of individual gestures, and (2) the social roles of design team partners. Distant collaborators were better understood when their telepresence intermediaries portrayed relevant gestures in concert with their facial expressions. When the avatars displayed such physical motions, teammates on both sides of the interaction were perceived as more involved in the conversation, more composed in demeanor, and more equal in stature. Our next step is to apply these requirements to the design of our next generation of field-robust communication avatar.