Accessible Parallel Embodiment of Multiple Robotic Avatars in a Cafe:
Novel technological systems enabling people to control multiple robotic avatars simultaneously could support more accessible ways to multitask. An implementation of a parallel avatar system in a cafe shows that, leveraging their existing skills, remote workers with disabilities were able to utilize the system to control up to four robots, each with a different function, to assist customers in a cafe. The parallel avatar systems expand the agency and the capabilities of disabled workers, while also delivering better experiences to customers.
'I am both here and there' Parallel Control of Multiple Robotic Avatars by Disabled Workers in a Café:
Robotic avatars can help disabled people extend their reach in interacting with the world. Technological advances make it possible for individuals to embody multiple avatars simultaneously. However, existing studies have been limited to laboratory conditions and did not involve disabled participants. In this paper, we present a real-world implementation of a parallel control system allowing disabled workers in a café to embody multiple robotic avatars at the same time to carry out different tasks. Our data corpus comprises semi-structured interviews with workers, customer surveys, and videos of café operations. Results indicate that the system increases workers' agency, enabling them to better manage customer journeys. Parallel embodiment and transitions between avatars create multiple interaction loops where the links between disabled workers and customers remain consistent, but the intermediary avatar changes. Based on our observations, we theorize that disabled individuals possess specific competencies that increase their ability to manage multiple avatar bodies.