Therapeutic interventions to improve the social abilities of ASD children require a lot of time, energy and human resources. There is therefore a critical need for tools that reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of these standard therapies. Thanks to recent advances in technology, robot-assisted therapies (RAT) have now become possible and emerging research shows promising results. Even though current “social” robots used in therapy are simply remote-controlled by the therapists, they have shown promise as potential assessment and therapeutic tools because children with ASD express an interest in interacting socially with such systems. It has for instance been shown that children with autism proactively interact with simple robots, likely because robots are simple and predictable.
The goal of this project is to reduce the efforts by the therapist required to operate such social robots by increasing its autonomy (always under the supervision of the therapist), increasing its value as a tool for clinical interventions and diagnostic analysis. We refer to this next-generation approach as “robot-enhanced therapy” (RET). Future RET systems will be able to:
- Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of therapy while reducing cost and freeing up human resources;
- facilitate repeatable, consistent child-specific interventions, and;
- provide the therapist with reliable data for long-term quantitative diagnostic analysis.