One for All, All for One

Inclusive Intelligent Environments (IE) play a crucial role in addressing the challenges posed by hearing and visual impairments. Recognizing the pressing need for accessibility, we propose an innovative solution - the use of social robots within these environments. In a recent study we took a step forward in this direction by introducing Haru, a social robot, as an agent in an IE. The study presented a prototype Rock-Paper-Scissors game designed to provide an inclusive and engaging experience for users with varying abilities.

The increasing prevalence of hearing and visual impairments emphasizes the pressing need for inclusive Intelligent Environments (IE) applications. These physical spaces, equipped with sensors and ambient intelligence, have the potential to enhance user experiences. However, it is imperative to prioritize accessibility and inclusivity during their design. While existing research has offered guidelines, the absence of concrete applications that cater to multiple disabilities simultaneously remains a critical gap. Addressing this gap is crucial to prevent social exclusion and ensure universal access for all individuals, including vulnerable populations such as the elderly and disabled.

Eyes’ display of the social robot Haru to express emotional states (a, b) and to show its choice in theRock-Paper-Scissors game (c, d, e).

Our study aims to take the first step towards bridging this gap by proposing the use of a social robot as an agent within an IE to promote universal access. We present a prototype of an interactive Rock-Paper-Scissors application utilizing the social robot Haru within an IE. The primary goal of this game is to provide an inclusive and engaging experience for users with varying abilities. By incorporating adaptive design principles and integrating multimodal interactions encompassing visual cues, sounds, subtitles, and speech recognition, the Rock-Paper-Scissors game aims to accommodate users with three different modes of perception: those who can see and hear, those who can only see, and those who can only hear.

Display of the Rock-Paper-Scissors application with Haru’s virtual environment for a user only ableto see and not hear. For a user able to see and hear, the interface is similar, without subtitles. For a user onlyable to hear and not see, a black screen is displayed.

A user study was conducted with 12 participants, and the results demonstrated that the Rock-Paper-Scissors application achieved acceptable usability scores for participants with visual and hearing impairments. The majority of participants expressed a preference for the see and hear mode, as it aligned with their accustomed mode of interaction. However, it is worth noting that some participants found the multimodal experience overwhelming, emphasizing the necessity for customizable interaction options to accommodate individual preferences and needs. Overall, our study demonstrated the potential of using social robots in IE applications to promote accessibility and inclusivity.

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