Robots to help children to form relationships

May 29, 2007

A project which is using robots to help children with developmental or cognitive impairments to interact more effectively has just started at the University of Hertfordshire.

Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, Dr. Ben Robins and Dr. Ester Ferrari at the University’s School of Computer Science are partners in the European Sixth Framework funded, €3.22 million Interactive Robotic Social Mediators as Companions (IROMEC) project which is investigating the use of robotic toys to enable children with disabilities to develop social skills.

Dr. Robins, the team member responsible for the work with robots and special needs children, has carried out extensive research into the types of robots which could help children with autism and other learning difficulties to interact most effectively.

He is now taking KASPAR (Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics), a robot developed at the University of Hertfordshire which resembles a little boy into schools in the Hertfordshire region to carry out a series of trials to assess progress.

“During our earlier work on the AuRoRA (Autonomous mobile Robot as a Remedial tool for Autistic children), we used very plain robots which were received well, and a more elaborate doll with few movement abilities that could encourage imitation and turn-taking behaviour during playful interactions. This previous research led to us using KASPAR, a child-sized humanoid robot, with minimum facial expressions, which can move its arms and legs and allows the child to interact with it,” said Dr. Robins.

Over the next three years, IROMEC will investigate how robotic toys can become social mediators encouraging children with disabilities to discover a range of play skills, from solitary to social and cooperative play and provide opportunities for other children and carers/teachers or parents to “join” in.

“The idea is that the robot will be a mediator for human contact,” said Dr. Robins. ‘We are seeing already that through interacting with the robot, children who would not normally mix are becoming interested in getting involved with other children and humans in general and we believe that this work could pave the way for having robots in the classroom and in homes to facilitate this interaction.”

Source: University of Hertfordshire

Explore further: Study says technology is ineffective in improving outcomes in schools

Related Stories

Why trying to ban sex robots is wrong

September 17, 2015

"Ban sex robots!" scream the tech headlines, as if they're heralding the arrival of the latest artificial intelligence threat to humankind since autonomous killer robots. The campaign, led by academics Kathleen Richardson ...

The moons of Neptune

September 9, 2015

Neptune, that icy gas giant that is the eight planet from our Sun, was discovered in 1846 by two astronomers – Urbain Le Verrier and Johann Galle. In keeping with the convention of planetary nomenclature, Neptune was named ...

Can towns near Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant recover?

September 8, 2015

A few signs of life are returning to this rural town made desolate by the Fukushima nuclear disaster four-and-a-half years ago: Carpenters bang on houses, an occasional delivery truck drives by and a noodle shop has opened ...

Recommended for you

Dutch create world's largest man-made wave

October 5, 2015

In a country where most people live below sea level, studying the oceans is a matter of survival. Now Dutch scientists have created the world's biggest man-made wave in a bid to prepare for the worst.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.