"I am the follower, also the boss": Exploring Different Levels of Autonomy and Machine Forms of Guiding Robots for the Visually Impaired


Guiding robots, in the form of canes or cars, have recently been explored to assist blind and low vision (BLV) people. Such robots can provide full or partial autonomy when guiding. However, the pros and cons of different forms and autonomy for guiding robots remain unknown. We sought to fill this gap. We designed autonomy- switchable guiding robotic cane and car. We conducted a controlled lab-study (N=12) and a field study (N=9) on BLV. Results showed that full autonomy received better walking performance and sub- jective ratings in the controlled study, whereas participants used more partial autonomy in the natural environment as demanding more control. Besides, the car robot has demonstrated abilities to provide a higher sense of safety and navigation efficiency compared with the cane robot. Our findings offered empirical evidence about how the BLV community perceived different machine forms and autonomy, which can inform the design of assistive robots.

The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2023