Robots for Children
In the last few decades, there has been a significant interest in the use of robots with children with disabilities. Robots are programmable mechanisms that move within a physical environment exhibiting a degree of autonomy. Its physical presence enables them to act upon the environment and to interact with people directly. Being programmable, capable of sensing the environment and of exhibiting different degrees of autonomy, robots can be used for different goals and adapt their behaviour in response to the environment and/or to the person they’re interacting with. Robotic systems may also be a valuable tool in objectively assessing educational or therapeutic goals by registering all variables of interest during interventions. These features, along with the fact that, in general, children are attracted by robots, have motivated the development of robotic tools to assist children with disabilities. Applications include the use of robots in a) inclusive education, allowing children to actively participate in the curricular activities (robotic assistive technologies to support manipulation), providing a direct application medium for the theoretical concepts under study (educational robotics), or interacting with children to support their learning (social robots acting as teachers or peers); b) cognitive therapy (social robots that foster social skills and language development); c) physical therapy (robots designed to engage children in physical therapy); d) stress and pain management (social robots acting as companions of children with a chronic illness or undergoing medical and/or mental care); e) promoting play for the sake of play (robots being the play object or providing a means to access to play). The possibility of implementing different levels of autonomy may enable robots to provide the just-right amount of support, only taking control when the child is not able to, thus enabling each child to develop up to the maximum of her potential.
The Special Session on “Robots for Children” will host presentations on the use of robots with children with disabilities. We aim at covering the entire life cycle of these technologies, from the (trans-disciplinary child-centred co-) design process, to the prototype development and testing, to the deployment in real-life settings and robot use protocols, up to the assessment of the effectiveness of the robotic systems interventions. Topics include, but are not limited to,
- (Child-centred) Research and development of robots for children with disabilities;
- Studies on robotic interventions with children with disabilities;
- Ethical issues in the use of robots with children with disabilities;
- (Child-centred) Assessment of robotic interventions with children with disabilities;
- (Personnel and user) Training on the use of robotic assistive technologies for children.
The session is organised and promoted by R4C – Robotics for Children, a research and development network aiming at the advancement of robotic applications for children.
Lorenzo Desideri, WeCareMore Research & Innovation Centre of AIAS Bologna
Pedro Encarnação, Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
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