'Make it move' : Playing cause and effect games with a robot companion for children with cognitive disabilities
Play is one of the most important activities in child development. Children with special needs are often excluded from play activities due to the nature of their impairments. This paper describes the use of two types of robots with very different configurations, one humanoid robot (KASPAR) and one mobile robotic platform (IROMEC), in a six month long-term study with children with different levels of cognitive and social disabilities. In this study we tested the effectiveness of KASPAR and IROMEC. IROMEC was designed for children with special needs in order to encourage them to be engaged in play activities. KASPAR was developed to facilitate social interaction, including applications designed to help children with autism. We examined whether these two robots can support the achievement of fundamental therapeutic and educational objectives for the cognitive and social development of these children. We performed similar play scenarios with both robots and monitored their effects on the behaviour of the children. In this paper we focus on the cause and effect game called Make it move. A preliminary analysis of the data shows very encouraging results. The interaction with the robots seemed to have in general positive influence on the development of the children's social skills. The level of success achieving the different objectives varied from child to child depending on the level and nature of their disability.