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Robotic technology is introduced to a domain either to allow a human to do a task that they could not do before, or to make the task easier or more pleasant for the human. Implicit in this assertion is the fact that introducing technology fundamentally changes the way that humans do the task. Task-shaping is a term that emphasizes the importance of considering how the task should be done and will be done when new technology is introduced. Compared to the other ways that a designer can shape HRI, there is little written about task-shaping.

There are formal processes for understanding how the task should be done and is currently done. These processes include goal-directed task analyses, cognitive work analyses, and ethnographic studies[105, 193, 215]. Although frequently used to specify how a task is done and how it should be done, it is imperative to consider how the task will be done, including unintended consequences of design [216, 217].

One reason that little is written about task-shaping is because designers are implicitly trying to create technology and interactions that accomplish some task or function. Indeed, Woods has persuasively argued that designing a system is equivalent to making a hypothesis about how the artifact will positively shape the experience [218]. Nevertheless, it is important to consider how the task might be modified to better support interaction. Examples of explicit task-shaping include designing space or underwater equipment and tools so that handles and connectors can be manipulated by a robotic arm, “pre-cleaning” a room so that a robot vacuum can accomplish its task most efficiently [170], and performing pre-inspection tasks used to form maps and plans that can be executed by a robot.