While telerobots offer potentially unique ways to shape human-human relationships, current concepts often imitate existing practices, such as face-to-face conversations. Using the example of informal care, we explored whether the explicit use of the unique possibilities provided by telerobots can lead to meaningful extended or unique care practices. Initial in-depth conversations with five caregivers and care recipients about their care practices revealed three types of “care visits” (i.e., dedicated, short/spontaneous, reciprocal) as well as what makes them positive (e.g., mutuality, routine, autonomy). We combined this with the unique opportunities telerobots offer, such as masking the feelings of the caregiver. These were further condensed into three video prototypes of potential, robot-mediated care practices and further critically reflected together with the five participants. All in all, telerobots offer opportunities to strengthen relational autonomy, to disentangle roles and to establish less demanding or more activity-based forms of sociability in informal care relations.
Ruben Albers, Judith Dörrenbächer, Martin Weigel, Dirk Ruiken, Thomas Weisswange, Christian Goerick, and Marc Hassenzahl