Kaspar in the wild: Experiences from deploying a small humanoid robot in a nursery school for children with autism
Syrdal, Dag Sverre
Cannon Jones, Nan
This article describes a long-term study evaluating the use of the humanoid robot Kaspar in a specialist nursery for children with autism. The robot was used as a tool in the hands of teachers or volunteers, in the absence of the research team on-site. On average each child spent 16.53 months in the study. Staff and volunteers at the nursery were trained in using Kaspar and were using it in their day-to-day activities in the nursery. Our study combines an “in the wild” approach with a rigorous approach of collecting and including users’ feedback during an iterative evaluation and design cycle of the robot. This article focuses on the design of the study and the results from several interviews with the robot’s users. We also show results from the children’s developmental assessments by the teachers prior to and after the study. Results suggest a marked beneficial effect for the children from interacting with Kaspar. We highlight the challenges of transferring experimental technologies like Kaspar from a research setting into everyday practice in general and making it part of the day-to-day running of a nursery school in particular. Feedback from users led subsequently to many changes being made to Kaspar’s hardware and software. This type of invaluable feedback can only be gained in such long-term field studies.