Ongoing project. Development of a robot platform to support new interaction strategies of children with limited socio-emotional abilities.
Children with autism often experience difficulties in properly interpreting the facial expressions or speech of those around them, or conveying these socio-emotional signals themselves. Often they also find it problematic to consciously control such feelings as frustration or agitation. Yet these emotional and social competences are important to deal with one’s own emotions and those of others, or to resolve social conflicts. While having problems with human interaction, autistic children are often fond of technology. For this reason, communication with robots is often easier for them, since robots are simpler and more predictable than humans.
The research project ERIK therefore deals with the development of a robot capable of interacting with autistic children in order to support the development of socio-emotional skills during therapy. The robot Pepper comprehends both the child’s facial expression and their speech. He interprets these signals and deduces emotions in real time. By recognizing interest, frustration, and boredom in the child, therapy scenarios can be individually adjusted. Pepper can interact with children using gestures and eye movements, which can help to reduce anxiety in social interaction with people.
Challenge for ASTRUM IT
For this research project, ASTRUM IT is in charge of the integration and processing of the data used for quantitative and qualitative therapy assessment. The findings acquired this way are subsequently visualized on a dashboard. Besides, ASTRUM IT implements an interface by means of which the interaction strategies applied during the therapy can be evaluated. Only that evaluation can show whether the therapy approaches are heading in the right direction.
This innovative treatment approach is beneficial not only for the children. Since the therapist does not directly participate in the interaction, he/she can observe and evaluate the interaction in a more precise and objective way. Moreover, the robot is capable of interacting with more than one child at the same time.