Robots to help children to form relationships

Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, Dr. Ben Robins and Dr. Ester Ferrari at the University of Hertfordshire's School of Computer Science are partners in the European Sixth Framework funded, €3.22 million Interactive Robotic Social Mediators as Companions project which is investigating the use of robotic toys to enable children with disabilities to develop social skills. Dr. Robins is now taking Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics, a robot developed at the University of Hertfordshire which resembles a little boy, into schools in the Hertfordshire region to carry out a series of trials to assess progress.

Over the next three years, IROMEC will investigate how robotic toys can become social mediators encouraging children with disabilities to discover a range of play skills, from solitary to social and cooperative play and provide opportunities for other children and carers/teachers or parents to "join" in. "The idea is that the robot will be a mediator for human contact. We are seeing already that through interacting with the robot, children who would not normally mix are becoming interested in getting involved with other children and humans in general and we believe that this work could pave the way for having robots in the classroom and in homes to facilitate this interaction," said Dr. Robins.

News source: Physorg

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