To aid children that have cognitive and motor skill disabilities, Georgia Tech researchers have come up with a rehabilitation tool that partners up an Android-based tablet and a robot.
Having children spend time swiping their fingers across the screen of a tablet can serve as valuable therapy for developmentally and physically challenged children. Getting the children to teach a game to another person is one way to engage them in the activity.
Having the children teach the game Angry Birds to full-grown adults, however, only piqued their interest for 9 minutes. When the team from Georgia Tech paired the Android tablet with a robot and asked the children to teach the game to the robot, the children held their interest in the activity for thrice as long.
In addition, the results showed that the children kept eye contact with the robot for 40 percent of the duration of the session, as opposed to only 7 percent when the children were teaching adults.
Motorola Foundation professor in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Ayanna Howard, the leader of the project, adds that the rehabilitation of a child with cognitive and motor skill disabilities requires hundred arm movements for the improvement of precise hand-coordination gestures.
Touching and swiping the tablet's screen repeatedly may soon become boring and monotonous for children; this changes with the introduction of a robot. If a robot is asking for help from the child, the child is more likely willing to spend time teaching it, even if the same instructions are repeated several times.
"The person's desire to help their 'friend' can turn a 5-minute, bland exercise into a 30-minute session they enjoy," Howard said.
The Georgia Tech researchers are next looking to test the rehabilitation technique on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, wherein the children will be teaching robots other games such as ZyroSky and Candy Crush.
In addition to the therapeutic effects of the tool on developmentally challenged children, the importance of training activities on robots is also highlighted.
The children teach the robots, who are sitting near them, by swiping their fingers to play the game. The robot observes the start and finish points of the child's finger movement, replicating them once it is the robot's turn to play. The robot is even programmed to sing out a happy song when winning and slump and shake its head when losing.
The researchers believe that allowing robots to have a learning ability will speed up their integration into society as everyday companions.