Towards Universal Access with the social robot Haru

I'm Julie Pivin-Bachler and my research focuses on accessibility in Human-Robot Interaction. Please feel free to ask me any questions!


According to the World Health Organization, billions of people currently experience some degree of hearing loss and/or vision impairment. With the growing aging population, both numbers are expected to substantially increase. Hearing loss and vision impairments frequently result in social isolation and loneliness due to information deprivation. Moreover, universal access of new systems is persistently delayed, leaving users with limited capacities all the more excluded.

In a world where technology is becoming omnipresent, such facts reveal the importance to take into account individuals with diverse sensory abilities when designing next-generation systems.

Our research

Technological advances have lead us to the era of Intelligent Environments (IE) where various technologies communicate collectively. We pose that IE with inputs and outputs modalities adequately managed by an intelligent agent, embodied as the social robot Haru, can adapt to its users' abilities; thus, providing universal access and preventing social exclusion.

To verify this hypothesis, we designed an adaptive Rock-Paper-Scissors application using the social robot Haru as manager of the inputs and outputs modalities. The accessibility of the application which covers three modes -where the user able to see and hear, only to see, or only to hear - was verified through a user-study.

The study confirmed the accessibility of the three modes and showed significant results on several levels. All modes were considered accessible, and users expected the application to be harder to use when put into a condition with a disability, especially with a visual impairment. In the end, the users' expectations were either matched or exceeded.


At a time where technology is becoming omnipresent and does not cease to advance, it is essential to make sure that vulnerable users - such as the disabled and the elderly - are given the same access to these technologies and are not socially excluded. The findings from this research indicate that making use of multimodality in IE to promote universal access is promising.

Additionally, the open questions suggested that user preferences are crucial to take into account to ensure user satisfaction. An intelligent agent embodied as a social robot, such as Haru, can act as the manager of the IE by taking into account both the user's (dis)abilities and preferences, and selecting accordingly the inputs and outputs modalities for interaction to ensure a suitable communication with the user.


Feel free to ask questions about the research via Slido.

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