Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Wizard behind the Robot

Case Reports

Wizard of Oz studies with Children

Hoysniemi J & Read J

Link to article:

What? This article reports on case studies about Wizard of Oz robots and children. ‘Wizard of Oz’ refers to the human behind the curtain who animates robot’s interaction with children. The robot is not autonomous but operated to some greater or lesser degree by a human wizard, as close to real time as possible.

Why? Wizard of Oz studies are interested in modelling and examining characteristics of computer-human interactions and the capabilities and limitations of autonomy in robots. These studies allow researchers to efficiently try out ways of interacting that might become programmed behavior in a more autonomous robot. It allows collection of data.

What was found? What is the balance between robot autonomy and the wizard in responses to the participant, and the delay inherent in this. Delays that occur as the wizard prepares a response for the robot to make were recognized as a limitation. Of mention is the notion of deception: whether or not the wizard being hidden or seen was an issue for children. Children mis-attributed autonomy to the present wizard even when there were keyboarding sounds occurring at the same time as the wizard was responding. Is there a responsibility on researchers regarding consent when children don’t understand there is a human behind the robot?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My (robot) friend

Blog post

Making new robot friends: Understanding children’s relationships with social robots

Westlund JMK

Published in mit media lab: Personal Robots Group blog, June 13, 2017

Link to blog:

"Hi, my name is Mox! This story begins in 2013, in a preschool in Boston, where I hide, with laptop, headphones, and microphone, in a little kitchenette. Ethernet cables trail across the hall to the classroom, where 17 children eagerly await their turn to talk to a small fluffy robot."

In this engaging blogpost, the author describes a robot used to explore the nature of relationships children build this social, teleoperated machine. In playtests with children, the author learns they form an understanding of robots that differ from the relationship with the robot’s human operator; from pets, from inanimate possessions and from people. Adult ontologies are not applied by children: person or machine, real or imaginary; no condition excludes the possibility of a friend. Characteristics like expressiveness and responsiveness are found to contribute to connection and learning. Robots can ask questions that encourage the child to greater engagement in a story and cue parents to ask similar questions.

Finally, the author expresses concerns about the ethics of providing engaged machines to children and issues a call to engagement in ‘roboethics’.

Research proposal: Transparency, Teleoperation, and Children’s Understanding of Social Robots, Westlund JMK & Breazeal C

Link to research proposal

Friday, September 1, 2017

Therapists across Canada Surveyed on VR and Active Video Games


Virtual Reality and Active Videogame-Based Practice, Learning Needs, and Preferences: A Cross-Canada Survey of Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists

Levac D, Glegg S, Colquhoun H, Miller P & Noubary F

Games for Health Jorunal Volume 6, Number 4; 2017


Link to abstract:

Objective: To conduct a cross-Canada survey to poll therapists on virtual reality and active videogame (VR/AVG) use.

Process: A convenience sample of 1071 therapists was polled online using the ADOPT- VR2 instrument (Assessing the Determinants of Prospective Take-up of Virtual Reality).

Findings: Almost half of the respondents had experience with VR/AVG. Factors that favoured VR/AVG use include the technology’s perceived usefulness and the therapists’ sense of self-efficacy.

Barriers to use include “lack of funds, space, time, support staff and appropriate clients”, and “facilitators included client motivation, therapist knowledge and administrative support”. Most of the respondents indicated an interest in learning more about VR/AVG treatment-based programs.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Robot rules and features


Designing a Robot Companion for Children with Neuro-Developmental Disorders

Gelsomini M, Degiorgi M, Garzotto F, Leonardi G, Penati S, Ramuzat N, Silvestri J & Casadonte F

IDC '17 Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children 451-457


Link through to full text: //

Objective: The authors set out to do two things.

  1. to collect information from 15 pediatric therapy ‘specialists’ and create a list of desired properties in a robot companion
  2. to study the classes of features that are present in available robots

Process: 21 common robots are chosen, and the concepts are both outlaid in matrixes for comparison.

Findings: The authors come up with “Robot’s Rules”. First, desired properties: a therapy robot should facilitate, prompt, restrict, emulate, provide feedback; and act as a social mediator, an affective agent and an emotional agent. Secondly, the five classes of features that social robots should have are identified: appearance, multimodality, multisensorialilty, configurability and safety.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Test of Playfulness with CP Kids

Single group

Playfulness in Children with Limited Motor Abilities when using a Robot

Rios AM, Adams K, Magill-Evans J, & Cook A

Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics (IPOP)

DOI: 10.3109/01942638.2015.1076559

Link to full text:

Objective: For children with limited motor skills, how does robot play change playfulness?

Process: Four children with GMFCS levels IV or V played with Lego robot for 15 minutes twice a week for 14 weeks. The Test of Playfulness was applied at baseline, during intervention and at follow-up.

Findings: "Test of Playfulness scores of the four children with cerebral palsy significantly increased during the intervention compared with baseline."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sensorimotor Robot Therapy: the Anklebot

Pilot study

Pediatric robotic rehabilitation: Current knowledge and future trends in treating children with sensorimotor impairments

Michmizos KP & Krebs HI

Neurorehabilitation (pre-press) DOI: 10.3233/NRE-171458

Link to abstract:

Objective: "As long as motor learning remains the major working hypothesis for sensorimotor rehabilitation, a well-designed robotic therapy… should follow the principles of motor learning, namely massed practice, cognitive engagement and functional relevance." Sensorimotor therapy is identified as three elements: discrete and rhythmic movements, and interaction with the environment.

Process: The application of the Pedi-Anklebot 'robot' is to target ankle movements and functional walking for children with motor disabilities. The authors use the games designed to treat reduced speed, strength, accuracy, co-ordination; and cognitive or perceptual difficulties. To provide comprehensive sensorimotor therapy, practice included discrete sub movements, rhythmic oscillations and practice with ground contact.

Conclusion: "To fully harness the therapeutic power of adaptation, we need to continue our research on the special characteristics of [the] sensorimotor control… on the differences between rhythmic and discrete movements, as well as mechanical impedance training."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Robots Learn to Play


Robots Learn to Play: Robots Emerging Role in Pediatric Therapy

Howard AM

Proceedings of the 26th International Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society Conference, 2013

Link to full text:

Objective: Therapy for children includes play; at best, robots will express this quality as they are brought into the pediatric setting. Three types of robots are discussed in this article: robots (smart toys) that are operated by alternative inputs such as the smart phone, robotic orthoses that include an element of play, and autonomous robots that interact through play. In each case, examples are given.


  1. ‘Robot’ or smart toys are considered here as toys which children can play with using an alternative means of manipulation. True smart toys possess some awareness of their surroundings and additionally require some degree of autonomy to meet the definition of robot.
  2. Robotic orthoses or exoskeletons guide, limit and assist in motor movements of upper and lower extremities. Play can be incorporated into this therapy.
  3. Autonomous robot toys which engage children with intentional, purposeful imitation play. "While typically developing children possess the ability to imitate others from birth, children with pervasive developmental disorders, such as autism, demonstrate significant difficulty in object and motor imitation. Imitation skills are thought to be closely related to early language and social abilities."

Conclusion:"It seems natural then that this research thread (autonomous robotic playmates capable of engaging children in shared manipulation-based play), along with … quantitative results… emerges as the next step in the domain of robots for pediatric therapy."