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  1. Turn-taking is a fundamental behavior during human interactions and robots must be capable of turn-taking to interact with humans. Current state-of-the-art approaches in turn-taking focus on developing general models to predict the end of turn (EoT) across all contexts. This demands an all-inclusive verbal and non-verbal behavioral dataset from all possible contexts of interaction. Before robot deployment, gathering such a dataset may be infeasible and/or impractical. More importantly, a robot needs to predict the EoT and decide on the best time to take a turn (i.e, start speaking). In this research, we present a learning from demonstration (LfD) system for a robot to learn from demonstrations, after it has been deployed, to make decisions on the appropriate time for taking a turn within specific social interaction contexts. The system captures demonstrations of turn-taking during social interactions and uses these demonstrations to train a LSTM RNN based model to replicate the turn-taking behavior of the demonstrator. We evaluate the system for teaching the turn-taking behavior of an interviewer during a job interview context. Furthermore, we investigate the efficacy of verbal, prosodic, and gestural cues for deciding when to begin a turn. 
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  2. Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) typically work towards acquiring skills to participate in a regular classroom setting such as attending and appropriately responding to an instructor’s requests. Social robots have the potential to support children with ASD in learning group-interaction skills. However, the majority of studies that target children with ASD’s interactions with social robots have been limited to one-on-one interactions. Group interaction sessions present unique challenges such as the unpredictable behaviors of the other children participating in the group intervention session and shared attention from the instructor. We present the design of a robot-mediated group interaction intervention for children with ASD to enable them to practice the skills required to participate in a classroom. We also present a study investigating differences in children's learning behaviors during robot-led and human-led group interventions over multiple intervention sessions. Results of this study suggests that children with ASD's learning behaviors are similar during human and robot instruction. Furthermore, preliminary results of this study suggest that a novelty effect was not observed when children interacted with the robot over multiple sessions. 
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  3. Robot-mediated therapy is an emerging field of research seeking to improve therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Current approaches to autonomous robot-mediated therapy often focus on having a robot teach a single skill to children with ASD and lack a personalized approach to each individual. More recently, Learning from Demonstration (LfD) approaches are being explored to teach socially assistive robots to deliver personalized interventions after they have been deployed but these approaches require large amounts of demonstrations and utilize learning models that cannot be easily interpreted. In this work, we present a LfD system capable of learning the delivery of autism therapies in a data-efficient manner utilizing learning models that are inherently interpretable. The LfD system learns a behavioral model of the task with minimal supervision via hierarchical clustering and then learns an interpretable policy to determine when to execute the learned behaviors. The system is able to learn from less than an hour of demonstrations and for each of its predictions can identify demonstrated instances that contributed to its decision. The system performs well under unsupervised conditions and achieves even better performance with a low-effort human correction process that is enabled by the interpretable model. 
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  4. Socially Assistive Robots (SARs) have demonstrated success in the delivery of interventions to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). To date, these robot-mediated interventions have primarily been designed and implemented by robotics researchers. It remains unclear whether therapists could independently utilize robots to deliver therapies in clinical settings. In this paper, we conducted a study to investigate whether therapists could design and implement robot-mediated interventions for children with ASD. Furthermore, we compared therapists’ performance, efficiency, and perceptions towards using a Virtual Reality (VR) and kinesthetic-based interface for delivering robot-mediated interventions. Overall, our results demonstrated therapists could independently design and implement interventions with a SAR. They were faster at designing a new intervention using VR than a kinesthetic interface. Therapists also had similar performance to delivering in-person interventions when utilizing VR to deliver interventions with the robot. Therapists reported moderate workload using the VR interface and perceived VR to be usable. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental condition that affects an individual’s ability to communicate and relate to others. Despite such challenges, early intervention during childhood development has shown to have positive long-term benefits for individuals with ASD. Namely, early childhood development of communicative speech skills has shown to improve future literacy and academic achievement. However, the delivery of such interventions is often time-consuming. Socially assistive robots (SARs) are a potential strategic technology that could help support intervention delivery for children with ASD and increase the number of individuals that healthcare professionals can positively affect. For SARs to be effectively integrated in real-world treatment for individuals with ASD, they should follow current evidence-based practices used by therapists such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In this work, we present a study that investigates the efficacy of applying well-known ABA techniques to a robot-mediated listening comprehension intervention delivered to children with ASD at a university-based ABA clinic. The interventions were delivered in place of human therapists to teach study participants a new skill as a part of their overall treatment plan. All the children participating in the intervention improved in the skill being taught by the robot and enjoyed interacting with the robot, as evident by high occurrences of positive affect as well as engagement during the sessions. One of the three participants has also reached mastery of the skill via the robot-mediated interventions. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Socially assistive robots (SARs) are being utilized for delivering a variety of healthcare services to patients. The design of these human-robot interactions (HRIs) for healthcare applications have primarily focused on the interaction flow and verbal behaviors of a SAR. To date, there has been minimal focus on investigating how SAR nonverbal behaviors should be designed according to the context of the SAR’s communication goals during a HRI. In this paper, we present a methodology to investigate nonverbal behavior during specific human-human healthcare interactions so that they can be applied to a SAR. We apply this methodology to study the context-dependent vocal nonverbal behaviors of therapists during discrete trial training (DTT) therapies delivered to children with autism. We chose DTT because it is a therapy commonly being delivered by SARs and modeled after human-human interactions. Results from our study led to the following recommendations for the design of the vocal nonverbal behavior of SARs during a DTT therapy: 1) the consequential error correction should have a lower pitch and intensity than the discriminative stimulus but maintain a similar speaking rate; and 2) the consequential reinforcement should have a higher pitch and intensity than the discriminative stimulus but a slower speaking rate. 
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