Challenges Deploying Robots During a Pandemic: An Effort to Fight Social Isolation Among Children


The practice of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in billions of people quarantined in their homes. In response, we designed and deployed VectorConnect, a robot teleoperation system intended to help combat the effects of social distancing in children during the pandemic. VectorConnect uses the off-the-shelf Vector robot to allow its users to engage in physical play while being geographically separated. We distributed the system to hundreds of users in a matter of weeks. This paper details the development and deployment of the system, our accomplishments, and the obstacles encountered throughout this process. Also, it provides recommendations to best facilitate similar deployments in the future. We hope that this case study about Human-Robot Interaction practice serves as inspiration to innovate in times of global crises.

In Proceedings of the 2021 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI ‘21). March 8–11, 2021, Boulder, CO, USA.
Kaitlynn T. Pineda
Kaitlynn T. Pineda
Ph.D. Student in Computer Science