Building a game scenario to encourage children with autism to recognize and label emotions using a humanoid robot

By Costa, S.; Soares, F.; Pereira, A.P.; Santos, C.; Hiolle, A.

IEEE RO-MAN 2014 - 23rd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication: Human-Robot Co-Existence: Adaptive Interfaces and Systems for Daily Life, Therapy, Assistance and Socially Engaging



This paper presents an exploratory study in which children with autism interact with ZECA (Zeno Engaging Children with Autism). ZECA is a humanoid robot with a face covered with a material allowing the display of varied facial expressions. The study investigates a novel scenario for robot-assisted play, to help promoting labelling of emotions by children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The study was performed during three sessions with two boys diagnosed with ASD. The results obtained from the analysis of the children's behaviours while interacting with ZECA helped us improve several aspects of our game scenario such as the technical specificities of the game and its dynamics, and the experimental setup. The software produced for this study allows the robot to autonomously identify the answers of the child during the session. This automatic identification helped the fluidity of the game and freed the experimenter to participate in triadic interactions with the child. The evaluation of the game scenario that will be used in a future study was the main goal of this pilot study, rather than to quantify and evaluate the performance of the children. Overall, this exploratory study in teaching children about labelling emotions using a humanoid robot embedded in a game scenario demonstrated the possible positive outcomes this child-robot interaction can produce and highlighted the issues regarding data collection and their analysis that will inform future studies.


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