Paladyn (Feb 2021)

Upper limb exercise with physical and virtual robots: Visual sensitivity affects task performance

  • Chevalier Pauline,
  • Vasco Valentina,
  • Willemse Cesco,
  • De Tommaso Davide,
  • Tikhanoff Vadim,
  • Pattacini Ugo,
  • Wykowska Agnieszka

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 1
pp. 199 – 213


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We investigated the influence of visual sensitivity on the performance of an imitation task with the robot R1 in its virtual and physical forms. Virtual and physical embodiments offer different sensory experience to the users. As all individuals respond differently to their sensory environment, their sensory sensitivity may play a role in the interaction with a robot. Investigating how sensory sensitivity can influence the interactions appears to be a helpful tool to evaluate and design such interactions. Here we asked 16 participants to perform an imitation task, with a virtual and a physical robot under conditions of full and occluded visibility, and to report the strategy they used to perform this task. We asked them to complete the Sensory Perception Quotient questionnaire. Sensory sensitivity in vision predicted the participants’ performance in imitating the robot’s upper limb movements. From the self-report questionnaire, we observed that the participants relied more on visual sensory cues to perform the task with the physical robot than on the virtual robot. From these results, we propose that a physical embodiment enables the user to invest a lower cognitive effort when performing an imitation task over a virtual embodiment. The results presented here are encouraging that following this line of research is suitable to improve and evaluate the effects of the physical and virtual embodiment of robots for applications in healthy and clinical settings.