An Internet-based Telepresence Robotic Avatar System for Real-time Mediated Interpersonal Communication



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Telecommunication has been achieved for more than one century, from the telegraph (1855), wired telephone (1876) to the mobile phone (1973), Internet-based (the 1990s) video conferencing, and games. The progress of telecommunication has changed people's life. The requirement for telecommunication is higher and higher, which is not limited to audio, video, and real-time. How to increase telepresence during telecommunication is a focus of recent research. In this paper, we proposed a novel Internet-based telepresence robotic avatar system specifically designed for real-time, mediated interpersonal communication applications. The system consists of a mobile phone App and a robot. The system’s goal is to provide the remote mobile phone user and local robot user with enhanced telepresence experiences. First, on top of an experimental tabletop robot platform, we designed a smartphone App to remotely connect and control the gesture interface of the humanoid robot through the Internet, where the gesture movement (including head movement, gaze, and mouth movement) of the remote participant is real-time tracked, encoded, and transmitted to the telepresence robot along with the audio stream. Meanwhile, the audio/video acquired by the video camera and microphone embedded in the robot is sent to the mobile side in real-time. Embodied with the remote participant, the robot can thus perform face-to-face interaction with the local participant in the same physical space in real-time. Then, through a comparative study between the proposed system and the widely used Zoom Video Conferencing system for interpersonal communication applications, we found that our proposed system can be measurably comparable to the Zoom video conferencing system in terms of most of the studied measures. Under the circumstance of lack of video support, but only with the robot's tangible body, lively facial expressions, and audio, the telepresence was obviously enhanced to the face-to-face level.



Telepresence, Robot, Facial expressions