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Design for Remote Embodiment

PhD project This project is about how to design for remote embodiment. Remote embodyment is the phenomenon of feeling like being in another, remote, body. The main technology for studying this phenomenon is Mobile Remote Presence robots.

Today's society is more and more connected, meaning that we are increasingly interacting with each other on a distance. Previously this interaction has either been by two, or more, people connecting each other via computers, such as Skype, or by entering a virtual world. The technology that this project focuses, i.e. Mobile Remote Presence robots, belongs to a third category since these robots offer a physical representation in the real world, i.e. a body. This causes changes both in how users interact with the remote participant, but also how the remote participant interact via the robot. One of the major novel phenomena is how the remote participant can embody the robot body as their own. The remote embodiment is a crucial aspect of seamless and efficient use of technology.

Head of project

Patrik Björnfot
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2016-05-01 2020-10-31



Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Informatics

Research area


Project description

Mobile Remote Presence robots is a technology that enables users to be present in a remote environmant, including being able to move around, i.e. being mobile. A typical MRP-robot can be seen as an "iPad on Wheels" that is running an videokonferance system. It is predicted that this technology will become increasingly common in various everyday aspects, and aldready now, succesfull usages can be seen in academic conferences, elderly care, medical settings, and in education.

 In this project, I look at various aspects of Mobile Remote Presence robots, from their current use and from the future possibilities of it. This includes how the technology can be appropriated in various forms of work and leisure activities, as well as how this can be expanded. A common topic in these investigations is the role of remote embodiment. Because the current research is well aware that the robot gives a great sense of spatial presence, i.e. "I feel like being there". However, an unexplored issue is how to design for the feeling of being in the body, something that is a problem with current technologies.

A higher degree of remote embodiment would mean that the cognitive load of controlling the robot becomes lower, and by this, the user can conduct more activities. As for illustration, one can argue that the highest, theoretically possible, form of remote presence is if you can control a remote robot as good as your own body.

In this line of research, multiple factors are looked at, including cognitive load, support for gestures, initial and expected future appropriation, and expansion of the robot capabilities by using remotely connected object (such as lamps, doors, monitors etc).

The general academic subject of my project is in Informatics, with a special focus on Interaction design.

Latest update: 2019-04-09