Researchers from Cornell University have created a revolutionary robot called ReMotion that can mimic a user’s movements in real time, providing important nonverbal cues that are often lost in virtual environments.
A doctoral student of information science, Mose Sakashita, explained the significance of this invention, stating, “In remote settings, we lose important nonverbal cues like pointing gestures and the perception of someone’s gaze that are crucial for design activities.”
Sakashita presented the study titled “ReMotion: Supporting Remote Collaboration in Open Space with Automatic Robotic Embodiment” at the Association for Computing Machinery CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Germany. The researchers demonstrated that ReMotion allows for swift and dynamic interactions using a mobile, automated robot.
ReMotion is a sleek, six-foot-tall robot equipped with a monitor for a head, omnidirectional wheels for movement, and game-engine software for its functioning. The robot seamlessly mirrors the movements of the remote user, thanks to another device called NeckFace, worn by the user to track their head and body movements. The motion data is then transmitted in real time to the ReMotion robot.
While telepresence robots exist, they usually require manual control from the remote user, which can be distracting. Other collaboration options like virtual reality and mixed reality may also require active participation from the user and limit peripheral awareness.
In a small study, almost all participants reported feeling more connected to their remote teammates when using ReMotion compared to other telerobotic systems. They also experienced a greater sense of shared attention among collaborators.
Future Development and Applications
Currently, ReMotion functions with two users in a one-on-one remote environment, with both users occupying identical spaces. However, the researchers plan to explore asymmetrical scenarios in which a single remote team member can collaborate with multiple teammates in a larger room using ReMotion.
Sakashita hopes to further develop ReMotion for use in virtual collaborative environments, classrooms, and other educational settings.
This research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation and the Nakajima Foundation.