One for All, All for One

Imagine a world where technology adapts to you, not the other way around. For people with hearing or visual challenges, this isn't just a nice thought—it's a necessity. That's why we're exploring how Intelligent Environments (IE), spaces filled with smart technology, can be made more inclusive. In this blog we describe a study that uses a social robot named Haru to explore the first steps towards accessible IE.

Why We Need Smarter Spaces

Intelligent Environments, like high-tech homes or offices, have the potential to make our lives easier. They use sensors and smart technology to adapt to our needs. However, there's an issue: these spaces often forget about people who have special needs.

Even though there are some guidelines on how to make these places more accessible, we're still missing solutions that work for people with different types of disabilities. This is a problem because it leaves out groups who could benefit the most: people with disabilities.

Meet Haru

In our research group, we are working on solutions to make these environments more inclusive for everyone. Meet Haru, a friendly robot that can interact with people in these high-tech environments. We created a test game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to show how Haru can make things more accessible.

The game is designed to be fun and easy for everyone to use. It has different ways to interact—like pictures, sounds, subtitles, and even voice commands—so that people with different needs can all enjoy the experience.

Haru's eyes are used both for showing emotion and displaying the game states.

In the study, we asked 12 people to try out our game. The feedback was encouraging. Most people liked that they could use both sight and sound to interact with Haru. However, we also learned that having too many options can be overwhelming for some. This tells us that one size doesn't fit all, and we need to let people choose how they want to interact with technology. More details about the methodology and results can be found in our research paper found at the bottom of this post.

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

Our experiment with Haru shows that social robots have the potential to make IE more inclusive. By giving people more ways to interact, we're taking steps toward a world where technology is truly for everyone.

Read paper