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Title: Promoting Social Engagement With a Multi-Role Dancing Robot for In-Home Autism Care
This work describes the design of real-time dance-based interaction with a humanoid robot, where the robot seeks to promote physical activity in children by taking on multiple roles as a dance partner. It acts as a leader by initiating dances but can also act as a follower by mimicking a child’s dance movements. Dances in the leader role are produced by a sequence-to-sequence (S2S) Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) network trained on children’s music videos taken from YouTube. On the other hand, a music orchestration platform is implemented to generate background music in the follower mode as the robot mimics the child’s poses. In doing so, we also incorporated the largely unexplored paradigm of learning-by-teaching by including multiple robot roles that allow the child to both learn from and teach to the robot. Our work is among the first to implement a largely autonomous, real-time full-body dance interaction with a bipedal humanoid robot that also explores the impact of the robot roles on child engagement. Importantly, we also incorporated in our design formal constructs taken from autism therapy, such as the least-to-most prompting hierarchy, reinforcements for positive behaviors, and a time delay to make behavioral observations. We implemented a multimodal child engagement model that encompasses both affective engagement (displayed through eye gaze focus and facial expressions) as well as task engagement (determined by the level of physical activity) to determine child engagement states. We then conducted a virtual exploratory user study to evaluate the impact of mixed robot roles on user engagement and found no statistically significant difference in the children’s engagement in single-role and multiple-role interactions. While the children were observed to respond positively to both robot behaviors, they preferred the music-driven leader role over the movement-driven follower role, a result that can partly be attributed to the virtual nature of the study. Our findings support the utility of such a platform in practicing physical activity but indicate that further research is necessary to fully explore the impact of each robot role.  more » « less
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Frontiers in Robotics and AI
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National Science Foundation
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