Toward Enhanced Teleoperation Through Embodiment

Alexander Toet, Irene A. Kuling, Bouke N. Krom, Jan B.F. van Erp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
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Telerobotics aims to transfer human manipulation skills and dexterity over an arbitrary distance and at an arbitrary scale to a remote workplace. A telerobotic system that is transparent enables a natural and intuitive interaction. We postulate that embodiment (with three sub-components: sense of ownership, agency, and self-location) of the robotic system leads to optimal perceptual transparency and increases task performance. However, this has not yet been investigated directly. We reason along four premises and present findings from the literature that substantiate each of them: (1) the brain can embody non-bodily objects (e.g., robotic hands), (2) embodiment can be elicited with mediated sensorimotor interaction, (3) embodiment is robust against inconsistencies between the robotic system and the operator’s body, and (4) embodiment positively correlates to dexterous task performance. We use the predictive encoding theory as a framework to interpret and discuss the results reported in the literature. Numerous previous studies have shown that it is possible to induce embodiment over a wide range of virtual and real extracorporeal objects (including artificial limbs, avatars, and android robots) through mediated sensorimotor interaction. Also, embodiment can occur for non-human morphologies including for elongated arms and a tail. In accordance with the predictive encoding theory, none of the sensory modalities is critical in establishing ownership, and discrepancies in multisensory signals do not necessarily lead to loss of embodiment. However, large discrepancies in terms of multisensory synchrony or visual likeness can prohibit embodiment from occurring. The literature provides less extensive support for the link between embodiment and (dexterous) task performance. However, data gathered with prosthetic hands do indicate a positive correlation. We conclude that all four premises are supported by direct or indirect evidence in the literature, suggesting that embodiment of a remote manipulator may improve dexterous performance in telerobotics. This warrants further implementation testing of embodiment in telerobotics. We formulate a first set of guidelines to apply embodiment in telerobotics and identify some important research topics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalFrontiers in robotics and AI
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2020


  • Teleoperation
  • Body ownership illusion
  • Rubber hand illusion
  • Performance enhancement
  • Embodiment
  • Robotics
  • Telemanipulation
  • Robotic dexterity


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