The TERESA project aims to develop a telepresence robot of unprecedented social intelligence, thereby helping to pave the way for the deployment of robots in settings such as homes, schools, and hospitals that require substantial human interaction. In telepresence systems, a human controller remotely interacts with people by guiding a remotely located robot, allowing the controller to be more physically present than with standard teleconferencing. We are developing a new telepresence system that frees the controller from low-level decisions regarding navigation and body pose in social settings. Instead, TERESA will have the social intelligence to perform these functions automatically. In particular, TERESA will semi-autonomously navigate among groups, maintain face-to-face contact during conversations, and display appropriate body-pose behaviour.
Achieving these goals requires advancing the state of the art in cognitive robotic systems. The project will not only generate new insights into socially normative robot behavior, it will produce new algorithms for interpreting social behavior, navigating in human-inhabited environments, and controlling body poses in a socially intelligent way. The project culminates in the deployment of TERESA in an elderly day centre. Because such day centres are a primary social outlet, many people become isolated when they cannot travel to them, e.g., due to illness. TERESA will provide a socially intelligent telepresence system that enables them to continue social participation.