Using the humanoid robot KASPAR to autonomously play triadic games and facilitate collaborative play among children with autism
This paper presents a novel design, implementation, and first evaluation of a triadic, collaborative game involving the humanoid robot KASPAR playing games with pairs of children with autism. Children with autism have impaired social communication and social interaction skills which make it difficult for them to participate in many different forms of social and collaborative play. Our proof-of-concept 10-week, long term study demonstrates how a humanoid robot can be used to foster and support collaborative play among children with autism. In this work KASPAR operates fully autonomously, and uses information on the state of the game and behaviour of the children to engage, motivate, encourage and advise pairs of children playing an imitation game. Results are presented from a first evaluation study which examined whether having pairs of children with autism play an imitative, collaborative game with a humanoid robot affected the way these children would play the same game without the robot. Our initial evaluation involved six children with autism who each participated in 23 controlled play sessions both with and without the robot, using a specially designed imitation-based collaborative game. In total 78 play sessions were run. Detailed observational analyses of the children's behaviours indicated that different pairs of children with autism showed improved social behaviours in playing with each other after they played as pairs with the robot KASPAR compared to before they did so. These results are encouraging and provide a proof-of-concept of using an autonomously operating robot to encourage collaborative skills among children with autism.
Published inIEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development
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