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

Part of the Understanding Innovation book series (UNDINNO)


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.


Facial Expression Local Teammate Local Participant Physical Avatar Remote Collaborator 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank the Hasso Plattner Institute—Stanford Design Thinking Research Program for funding this project; Professors Mark Cutkosky and Larry Leifer for supervising the research; and collaborators Eric Kent for co-designing and constructing robot avatars and contributing to the content of the studies; Rebecca Currano for contributing to the content of the video prototypes and studies; and Samson Phan for guiding the design and safety of our robot avatars.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Design ResearchStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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