"Commanding Your Robot" Older Adults' Preferences for Methods of Robot Control

Home robots have the potential to assist older adults in maintaining their independence. However, robots deployed in older adults’ homes will be required to interact with untrained, novice users. The way untrained users, such as older adults, provide commands or control the robot (i.e., “method of robot control”) will likely impact the ease of use and adoption of the robot. The current study explored older adults’ preferences for controlling robots. Twelve independently-living older adults (ages 68-79) observed a functioning personal robot in a home setting, and were interviewed about their opinions regarding specific methods of robot control (i.e., laser pointer, physical manipulation, and devices). The older adults perceived advantages and disadvantages of these specific methods, including ‘specificity in command’, ‘accurate robot performance’, ‘limitations in their own physical capability’, and ‘challenges in using control device.’ The older adults also completed a questionnaire measuring their willingness to use 10 different types of methods of robot control. These data revealed that older adults were willing to use a variety of methods. Although older adults were limited in their spontaneous ideas about robot control (i.e., limited to voice command), once exposed to other options they were willing and open to a variety of control methods.