Gaze-controlled Telepresence: Accessibility, Training and Evaluation

Guangtao Zhang

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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Recent advances in robotic technology and mobile devices make it possible to be present at a remote physical location via mobile video and audiotransmission, s.c. telepresence. Telepresence now becomes mainstream in the form of telerobots. For people with motor disabilities in particular, telerobots may help them overcome physical barriers, and give them access to places, events, work, and education, potentially improving their quality of life. However, telerobots are usually controlled by keyboards or joysticks. This Ph.D. thesis explores gazecontrolled telepresence, which makes telerobots accessible for people who are unable to use their hands due to motor disability. Gazeinteraction is a common modality for augmented and alternative communication, and soon to be included in commodity hardware like headmounted displays (HMD´s). The thesis starts by grounding the research as a contribution to the sustainable development goals and their commitment to ”Leaving no one behind”, and arguing that telerobots should be regarded as an important assistive technology. A systematic literature review was made to survey prior research concerning accessibility of telerobots. The use of gazeinteraction for mobility control has only been addressed in a few studies and none of them conducted an evaluation of the impact of gazeinteraction on situational awareness or the effect of training. An experimental telerobotic system, including a virtualrealitybased simulation of the robot and the task scenario, was applied in two empirical studies. Our first experiment confirmed that telerobots can be operated by gaze, but it also identified a set of challenges when compared to hand control. For this experiment we developed a novel mazebased evaluation method. In the second experiment, we further explored if operator training improves gaze control. We compared the performance of participants trained in a real physical scenario with participants trained in the VRsimulator. Results indicate that the two forms of training are equally effective. Situational awareness (SA) is crucial for teleoperation tasks. A substantial contribution of this thesis was to develop and test a minimally intrusive procedure for measuring SA. We compared stateoftheart methods (i.e. SPAMbased popup and a postexperimental questionnaire (SART)) with our new method, which is based on analysis of saccadic eye movements that can be recorded by HMD´s. Response latency of saccades towards a target stimuli showed to be a sensitive indicator of mental workload and correlated with a number of metrics from the stateoftheart methods. Thus, it merits further investigation for continuous monitoring of SA because it only interrupts the operator for a few seconds. Finally, we conducted a field study in a care home. This confirmed gazecontrol of telerobots to be a viable option for our target user group. Our participants gave suggestions for how the technology could further be used to improve their quality of life, for instance as a means of telework and shopping. In summary, our studies have (i) argued for the accessibility to gazecontrolled telepresence, (ii) shown VRbased operator training to be effective, (iii) developed and tested a new method for measuring of SA and, (iv) our target users confirmed the feasibility and potentials of this technology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages196
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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