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The main DREAM experimental platform is the 58-cm tall, 5-kg humanoid robot NAO developed by Aldebaran Robotics. NAO is a 25 degrees of freedom robot, equipped with a rich array of sensors: 2 cameras, 4 directional microphones, sonar rangefinder, 2 IR emitters and receivers, 1 inertial board, 9 tactile sensors, and 8 pressure sensors. NAO can detect and recognize pre-learned objects and faces, recognize words and sentences, and localize sounds in space. It has various communication devices including LED lights, two high-fidelity speakers, a voice synthesizer with language-specific intonation and pronunciation.
The NAO robot has already been used in different experiments with ASD children3,4,5 . Because of its size and appearance, NAO is particularly well received by young children, they anthropomorphize NAO and readily engage in affective social interactions with it.
The second DREAM experimental platform is Probo, developed at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. This robot was designed to focus on verbal and non-verbal communication, and act as a social interface by employing human-like social cues and communication modalities. It is well suited for this task since it has a fully expressive and anthropomorphic head. With 20 motors in the head, the robot is able to express attention and emotions via its gaze and facial expressions. To guarantee a safe physical interaction between the robot and the children, compliant actuation systems and a layered structure with foam and fabric are implemented, contributing to the aspects of a safe, soft and “huggable” interaction. A new version with actuated arms, hands, and body and able to gesture, adapt body posture and perform basic manipulation skills is currently under construction. This version will be ready for use in DREAM by the end of 2014.
Probo has also previously been used with ASD children6,7,8,9. The outcomes of these studies all showed positive results. In all the studies, the robot was used in a Wizard of Oz setup.
3 Tăpus, A., Peca, A., Aly A., Pop, C., Jisa, L., Pintea, S., Rusu, A. & David, D. (2012) “Exploratory Study: Children’s with Autism Awareness of Being Imitated by Nao Robot.”1st International Conference “Technologies for Autism: Tools, Trends and Testimonials”.
4 Villano, M., Crowell, C., Wier, K., Tang, K., Thomas, B., Shea, N., Schmitt, L. & Diehl, J. (2011), Domer: a wizard of oz interface for using interactive robots to scaffold social skills for children with autism spectrum disorders, in ‘Proceedings of the 6th international conference on Human-robot interaction’, ACM, 279–280.
5 Belpaeme, T., Baxter, P., Read, R., Wood, R., Cuayahuitl, et al. (in press), “Multimodal Child-Robot Interaction: Building Social Bonds”. Journal of Human-Robot Interaction.
6 Saldien, J., Goris, K., Vanderborght, B., Vanderfaeillie, J. & Lefeber, D. (2010), “Expressing emotions with the social robot Probo.” International Journal of Social Robotics 2(4), 377–389.
7 Vanderborght, B., Simut, R., Saldien, J., Pop, C., Rusu, A., Pintea, S., Lefeber, D., and David, D. (2012) “Using the social robot Probo as social story telling agent for children with ASD,” Interaction Studies, 13(3), 348-372(25).
8 Pop, C., Simut, R., Pintea, S., Saldien, J., Rusu, A., Vanderfaeillie, J., David, D., Lefeber, D. & Vanderborght, B. (under review), ‘Identifying Situation-based Emotions using the Social Robot Probo: A case study in autism spectrum disorders.’ International Conference on Innovative Technologies for Autism Spectrum Disorders. ASD: Tools, Trends and Testimonials.
9 Simut, R., Pop, C., Vanderfaeillie, J., Lefeber, D., & Vanderborght B. (2012). Trends and future of social robots for ASD therapies: potential and limits in interaction. International Conference on Innovative Technologies for Autism Spectrum Disorders. ASD: Tools, Trends and Testimonials.