The project " Exploring Robot Assisted Therapy for Children with ASD " is funded by the Romanian government by UEFISCDI (Unitatea Executiva pentru Finantarea Invatamantului Superior, a Cercetarii, Dezvoltarii si Inovarii) under project number PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0484 (contract number 226/5.10.2011). The aim is to explore the role of robots in autism therapy and answer the key research problem what is the observed and reported impact. The project is directed by prof dr ir Bram Vanderborght. The project is hosted in the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy headed by conf. univ. Dr. Anca Dobrean of the Babes-Bolyai University and is part of the Robotherapy and Virtual Reality Platform (Data Laboratory) headed by Prof Daniel David. It is a strong multidisciplinary team consisting of psychologist, engineers (particular with the Robotics Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium), product developers and still expanding with new collaborations.
Therapeutic interventions aiming to improve social abilities imply a lot of time, energy and human resources, so there is a critical need for any tool that might lessen the cost and improve the effectiveness of these standard therapies. Due to the advancements in technology, Robot Assisted Therapy becomes possible and emerging research shows promising results. The first target group is children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) since they have difficulties with social interaction, communication and behavior. They like more things, computers and robots than humans because they are simple and more predictable. This project allows for breakthroughs in the field of social robots, human-robot interaction (HRI) and improves the social skills of ASD children and by this, engages them better in society.
Our research aim is to improve ASD therapies and to make the learning process more pleasant for children, by developing attractiv games, adapted to their developmental level. The short-term goals of this research refer to conduct studies that investigate appropriate modalities by which technology (social robots) can be used to increase children's motivation to learn through playing.
The long-term goal is to develop robot assisted therapies for improving social, play and emotional skills of children diagnosed with ASD. Our aim is not to replace the therapist, but to use the robot as a social mediator. Being an attractive toy, the robot is used as a common attraction point for the child and the therapist, that creates more easily and natural opportunities to learn social skills during playtime.
For more details see Publications section.
Description about all our robots
Probo is an intelligent huggable robot that is developed as research platform to study cognitive human-robot interaction (HRI) with a special focus on children. The robot Probo is designed to act as a social interface, providing a natural interaction while employing human-like social cues and communication modalities. The robot has a fully actuated head, with 20 degrees of freedom, capable of showing facial expressions. A remarkable feature is the moving trunk and the soft and huggable jacket. A user friendly Robotic User Interface (RUI) enables the operator to control the robot. For more info: http://probo.vub.ac.be.
Robonova is a humanoid, fully customizable and programmable robot. Its movement is done with HiTEC motors. These smart muscles and joints give complete control of torque, speed and position. The programming software is simple, so advanced knowledge of programming is not needed. It can walk, run, do flips, cartwheels and dance. It is available as a kit, so you can enjoy building your robot yourself, or as a pre-assembled, ready to walk.
Romibo is a social robot capable to show simple social cues, but extremely efficient in triggering emotional reactions. Therefore he can be an amazing tool for therapies for children with autism. He can be autonomous or controled by an external operator. Romibo is able to respond to touch and sound sensors and to detect obstacles. Its simplicity, mobility and predictibility make itself an excellent partner for therapeutical games.
This game is based on the concept of virtual pets that change their mood with user interactions. The virtual Probo, has a set of internal needs (hunger, health, affection, tiredness, pain, hygiene) that are influenced by different actions of the user. The needs themselves influence the valence and arousal dimension of the emotional space, leading to an emotional feedback using facial expressions of the robot. Most of the actions are performed with a game controller; others are triggered by the user interactions with a stuffed (real) version of Probo equipped with touch sensors. This gives the possibilities to explore haptic interaction and the concepts how needs control the emotional state of Probo.
The creature-like robot, Keepon is designed to perform emotional and attention exchange with human interactants (especially, children) in the simplest and most comprehensive way. Keepon has a yellow snowmanlike body. The upper part (the head) has two eyes and a nose, which is actually a microphone. The lower part (the belly) has a small gimbal and four wires, by which the body is manipulated like a marionette. Since the body is made of silicone rubber and its inside is relatively hollow, Keepon's head and belly deform whenever it changes posture and when people touch it.
Nao is an autonomous, programmable, medium-sized humanoid robot, with 25 degrees of freedom, equipped with an inertial sensor, two cameras, eyes eight full color RGB LEDs, and many other sensors, including sonar which allows it to comprehend its environment with stability and precision. Nao is capable of executing a wide range of movements (walking, sitting, standing up, dancing, avoiding obstacles, kicking, seizing objects, etc.) The humanoid robot has a vision system allowing him to capture and send photos, video streams, recognize colored objects, detect and recognize faces and communicate with the PC.
Bram Vanderborght was born in 1980. He received the degree in study of Mechanical Engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in 2003. In May 2007 he received his PhD in Applied Sciences. In May 2006 he performed research on the humanoids robot HRP-2 at the Joint Japanese/French Robotics Laboratory (JRL) in AIST, Tsukuba (Japan). From October 2007-April 2010 he worked as post-doc researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genua (Italy) on the humanoid robot iCub and compliant actuation. Since October 2009 is appointed as professor at the VUB. His research includes cognitive and physical human robot interaction, robot assisted therapy, compliant actuation, humanoids and rehabilitation robotics. Since October 2011 he is parttime research director at the Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy with a project on robot assisted therapy with ASD children. He has an ERC grant.
Dirk Lefeber obtained a PhD in Applied Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in 1986. He is head of the Robotics and Multibody Mechanics Research Group. From 2000 to 2004 and from 2008 till now he is head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He is a member of IEEE and of ASME. He is author/co-author of 4 books, 3 book chapters, 27 journal papers and about 60 international conference papers over the past 5 years.
Johan Vanderfaeillie obtained his master degree and Ph.D. at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in respectively 1989 and 2004. In 2005 he became Associate Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Department of Clinical and Lifespan Psychology. His research interests include Youth Care with a special interest for family foster care and the education of children with special needs.
Alina S. Rusu received her PhD degree from University of Zurich, in 2004, in Natural Sciences (Animal Behavior). From 2005 until now, she is Associate Professor at Faculty of Psychology and Sciences of Education, "Babes-Bolyai" University, Romania. She is the Director of the Biological Models of Psychopathology at the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy ("Babes-Bolyai" University), and also, the President of the Romanian Association of Animal Assisted Activities and Therapy. She is the author of over 30 papers, book chapters and scientific reports. Her research interests include comparative psychology, human-animal and human-robot interaction.
Jelle Saldien received his M.S. degree in Industrial Science - ICT at De Nayer Institute in 2003 and an additional M.S. degree in Product Development at Artesis in 2005. In 2009, he received his Ph.D. at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on the design and de- velopment of the social robot Probo. From 2010, he is Assistant Professor in Industrial Design at the Howest University College West Flanders. Jelle Saldien is author of over 15 technical publications, proceedings, editorials and books. His research interests include Robotics, Human Robot Interaction, Human Computer Interaction, Mechatronics and Interaction Design.
Sebastian Pintea received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Babes-Bolyai University, Romania in 2003 and 2006, respectively. From 2007 to 2008, he was Postdoctoral researcher in The International Institute of Advanced Studies in Psychoterapy and Applied Mental Health, Babes-Bolyai University and Albert Ellis Institute, USA. Now, he is Senior Researcher at the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, "Babes-Bolyai", University. Some of the recent projects he was involved in, are developed in the domain of robot-assisted therapy and animal-assisted therapy for ASD children. He is the author of over 25 publications in the field of psychology. His scientific interests include advanced clinical research methods, entrepreneurial psychology and evidence-based therapy based on humanoid robots.
Ramona Simut received her M.S. degrees from Babes-Bolyai University, in 2011. From 2008 to 2011 she worked as a psychologist at the Research Department of Autism Transylvania Association on the project of Using the social robot Probo in therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). From September 2011to present she is a PhD student with the research focus on the clinical use of social robots for ASD children at the Clinical and Life Span Psychology Department of Vrije University of Brussel. Her research interests include developing robot assisted therapies for children with autism, perception of the child-robot interaction, responses to robots of ASD children.
Cristina Pop received her M.S. degrees from Babes-Bolyai University, in Psychology, in 2011. From October 2011 she is a PhD student at Babes-Bolyai University, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. From 2008 to 2011 she worked at Autism Transylvania Association as a psychologist, and from 2010 she was the head of the Research Department of Autism Transylvania Association. Since 2011 she is involved in the project "Using the social robot Probo in therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders" from Babes Bolyai University in collaboration with Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Her research interests include human-robot interaction, improving social and play skills by using robot assisted therapies for children with autism.
Raluca Anton is a Research assistant, MA., at the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca,Romania,a clinical psychologist, psychological counselor and psychotherapist, licensed by the Romanian College of Psychologist, a member of the Romanian Association for Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, PhD candidate in the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She is specialized in psychological services provided to all age groups, individually or in groups, especially in areas of: (1) psychodiagnosis and treatment of (a) disorders associated with pregnancy (e. g. pre / post partum depression, pre / post partum anxiety); (b) attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder; (c) anxiety and depressive disorders; (d) adolescent's emotional and / or behavioral disorders; (e) couples counseling, (2) promoting individual health (e.g. rational emotive and behavioral education), (3) educational and vocational counseling (e.g. professional orientation of young people, the management of learning process of students), (4) parental training using cognitive / behavioral techniques. She has extensive training in rational-emotive and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Silviu-Andrei Matu, Ph.D. student received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Bucharest and an M.A. in "Clinical psychology, counseling and psychotherapy" from Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. He's now continuing his studies at Babes-Bolyai, following a PhD program in the Doctoral School "Evidence-based assessment and psychological interventions". His research interests are grounded in the field of cognitive clinical sciences and are focused on the efficiency of different emotional regulations strategies and the cognitive processes that sustain them. His considering experimental designs as main methodology and psychophysiological as well as experiential measures as main levels of analysis. Also, he's involved in several research projects targeting at developing new mental health services by integrating emerging technologies such as social robots, virtual reality and intelligent avatars into classical approaches. Silviu is also certified as a clinical psychologist under supervision by the Psychologists' College of Romania.
Andreea Peca received her M.S. degree from Babes-Bolyai University in Psychology in 2005. Between 2005 and 2007, she worked as a clinical psychologist at the Child Protection Social Service and as a school psychologist. From 2007 to 2009 she worked as a clinical psychologist at Autism Transylvania Association. In 2008, she founded Pasi ?nainte Association, an NGO that offers assessment and early intervention services for children with autism. Since 2010 she is involved in the project "Children with autism social engagement in interaction with Nao, an imitative robot", a collaboration between Babes-Bolyai University and ENSTA-ParisTech. She is currently working as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice. Her research interests include human robot interaction, the development of the prerequisites of social cognition in the first years of life, in typical development and in autism, with emphasis on the dynamics of imitation.
Lavinia Jisa got her degree in Psychology at Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca in 2010 (with a thesis on the topic of rehabilitation robots in AVC).Currently she is attending a master program in Clinical Psychology at the same university. She worked for a year as an educator in a kindergarten and in present she is a psychologist. She collaborated at the study-Children with Autism Social Engagement in Interaction with Nao, an Imitative Robot - A Series of Single Case Experiments (Adriana Tapus, Andreea Peca, Amir Aly, Cristina Pop, Lavinia Jisa, Sebastian Pintea, Alina Rusu, and Daniel David). In the present she worked as a research assistant on the project -Exploratory research projects - PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3 a collaboration between Babes-Bolyai University and Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She is interested in human-robot interaction and rehabilitation robots.
Greet Van de Perre received her degree in Electro-Mechanical Engineering in June 2011 from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In September 2011, she started a PhD at the Robotics & Multibody Mechanics Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, under supervision of prof. dr. ir. Bram Vanderborght. Her research consists of investigating how gestures and body language can be generated by social robots, and how they can contribute to the human-robot interaction and the possibilities of Robot Assisted Therapy.
Dear parents and therapists,Vrije Universiteit Brussel, by the Clinical and Life Span Psychology Department and the the Robotics and Multybody Mechanics Research group in collaboration with University Babes Bolyai, Romania, by the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Department organizes playful interactions with our social robots, for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Due to this strong collaboration, the sessions are organized in both of the countries.
Description of the project:
In clinical interventions, skill transfer from therapist to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) benefits from the inclusion of expressive artefacts such as puppets and animated characters. Well-designed robotic agents have proven to be particularly effective and are becoming an increasingly important tool for mediating between therapists and ASD children in robot-assisted therapy (RAT). However, therapeutic interventions require significant human resources over extended periods. Consequently, to make a significant difference, therapeutic robots need to have a greater degree of autonomy than current remote-controlled systems. Furthermore, they have to act on more than just the child’s directly-observable movements because emotions and intentions are even more important for selecting effective therapeutic responses. The next generation of RAT, which we refer to as robot-enhanced therapy (RET), will be able to infer the ASD children’s psychological disposition and assess their behaviour in order to select therapeutic actions. Since children require therapy tailored to individual needs RET robots will provide this too. Driven by therapists, DREAM will deliver next-generation RET, developing clinical interactive capacities for supervised autonomy therapeutic robots; robots that can operate autonomously for limited periods under the supervision of a therapist. The DREAM robot will also function as a diagnostic tool by collecting clinical data on the patient. It will operate under strict ethical rules and the DREAM project will provide policy guidelines to govern ethically-compliant deployment of supervised autonomy RET. The core of the DREAM RET robot is its cognitive model which interprets sensory data (body movement and emotion appearance cues), uses these percepts to assess the child’s behavior by learning to map them to therapist-specified behavioral classes, and then learns to map these child behaviors to appropriate therapist-specified robot actions.
1 HOGSKOLAN I SKOVDE HIS Sweden
2 VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL VUB Belgium
3 UNIVERSITATEA BABES BOLYAI UBB Romania
4 UNIVERSITY OF PLYMOUTH PLYM United Kingdom
5 UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH HIGHER EDUCATION CORPORATION PORT United Kingdom
6 UNIVERSITEIT TWENTE TWENTE Netherlands
7 ALDEBARAN ROBOTICS SA ALD France
New advances in Robot Assisted Therapy: a multidisciplinary approach, Cluj-Napoca, 8-9 November 2012 (funded by Planul National de Cercetare-Dezvoltare si Inovare II Programul “IDEI”- EXPLORATORY WORKSHOP)
Devoxx 2012 , Antwerp, Belgium 12-16 November 2012
IROS12 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, October 7-12, 2012, Vilamoura, Algarve
Summer School on Human-Machine Systems, Cyborgs, and Enhancing Devices - June 14-18, 2012 Iasi, Romania
International Conference on Human-Machine Systems, Cyborgs and Enhancing Devices(HUMASCEND 12) - June 14-18, 2012 Iasi, Romania
Summer School on Social Human-Robot Interaction, Christ's College, University of Cambridge, UK, 26-30 august, 2013
World Psychiatric Association Regional congress 2012, Bucharest, Romania, 10-13 April, 2013
IP Constructing Healthy Experiences Kortrijk, 11-22 February 2013
HFR2013 – 6th workshop for young researchers on human-friendly robotics, September 2013, Rome, Italy
Board of European Students in Technology (BEST) summerschool on Human-Robot Interaction 4-14 July 2013, Brussels
PublicationsOnly our Journal publications are presented here:
1. Simut Vanderborght, R., Pop, C., David, D. D., Vanderfaeillie, J., & Vanderborght, B. (2015). Social Robots as Mediators for Social Story Intervention: Can the Robot Probo Encourage Children with ASD to Ask Questions During Playtime?. In S. Douglas, & L. Stirling (Eds.), Children’s Play, Pretense, and Story: Studies in Culture, Context, and ASD. (pp. 96-115). Routledge. link
1. Simut, R., Van de Perre, G., Costescu, C., Saldien, J., Vanderfaeillie, J., David, D., & Vanderborght, B. (2016). Probogotchi: a novel edutainment device as a bridge for interaction between a child with asd and the typically developed sibling. Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies, 16(1), 91. link
1. Peca, A., Coeckelbergh, M., Simut Vanderborght, R., Pop, C., Pintea, S., David, D. D., & Vanderborght, B. (2016). Robot Enhanced Therapy for Children with Autism Disorders: Measuring Ethical Acceptability. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 35(2), 54-66. link
1. Peca, A., Simut, R., Cao, H. L., & Vanderborght, B. (2016). Do infants perceive the social robot Keepon as a communicative partner?. Infant Behavior and Development, 42, 157-167. link
1. Costescu, C. A., Vanderborght, B., & David, D. O. (2016). Beliefs, emotions, and behaviors - differences between children with ASD and typically developing children. A robot-enhanced task. Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies, September 2016 (in press)
1. Simut R.A., Costescu C., Vanderfaeillie J., van de Perre, G., Vanderborght, B., Lefeber, D., (2016). "Can you cure me?": Children with autism spectrum disorders playing a doctor game with a social robot. International Journal of School Health. 3(3): e29584 , DOI: 10.17795/intjsh-29584 link
2. Coeckelbergh, M., Pop, C., Simut, R., Peca, A., Pintea, S., David, D., & Vanderborght, B. (2015). A Survey of Expectations About the Role of Robots in Robot-Assisted Therapy for Children with ASD: Ethical Acceptability, Trust, Sociability, Appearance, and Attachment. Science and engineering ethics, 1-19 link
3. Peca, A., Simut, R., Pintea, S., & Vanderborght, B. (2015). Are Children with ASD more Prone to Test the Intentions of the Robonova Robot Compared to a Human?. International Journal of Social Robotics, 7(5), 629-639 link
4. Simut, R. E., Vanderfaeillie, J., Peca, A., Van de Perre, G., & Vanderborght, B. (2015). Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Make a Fruit Salad with Probo, the Social Robot: An Interaction Study. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1-14 link
5. Pop Cristina A Pintea Sebastian, Vanderborght Bram David Daniel (2014): Enhancing play skills, engagement and social skills in a play task in ASD children by using robot-based interventions..In: Interaction Studies, 15 (2), pp. 71 - 91, 2014, ISSN: 1572-0373. link
6. Costescu Cristina A. Vanderborght Bram, David Daniel (2014): The effects of robot-enhanced psychotherapy. A meta-analysis. In: Review of General Psychology , 18 (2), pp. 127 - 136, 2014, ISSN: 1089-2680. link
7. Pop Cristina A. Simut Ramona, Pintea Sebastian Saldien Jelle Rusu Alina David Daniel Vanderfaeillie Johan Lebefer Dirk Vanderborght Bram (2013): Can the Social Robot Probo help Children with Autism to Identify Situation-based Emotions?. In: International Journal of Humanoid Robotics, 10(3), 2013, ISSN: 0219-8436. link
8. Pop Cristina A. Simut Ramona, Pintea Sebastian Saldien Jelle Rusu Alina Vanderfaeillie Johan David Daniel Lefeber Dirk Vanderborght Bram (2013): Social Robots vs. Computer Display: Does the Way Social Stories are Delivered Make a Difference for Their Effectiveness on ASD Children? . In:Journal of Educational Computing Research, 49 (3), pp. 381 - 401, 2013, ISSN: 0735-6331. link
9. Thill, Serge; Pop, CristinaA.; Belpaeme, Tony; Ziemke, Tom; Vanderborght, Bram (2012): Robot-assisted therapy for autism spectrum disorders with (partially) autonomous control: Challenges and outlook. In: Paladyn, 3 (4), pp. 209-217, 2012, ISSN: 2080-9778. link
10. Vanderborght B., Simut Saldien Pop Rusu Pintea Lefeber & David (2012): Using the social robot probo as a social story telling agent for children with ASD. In: Interaction Studies, 13 (3), pp. 348 - 372, 2012. link
11. Tapus Adriana Peca Andreea, Aly Amir Pop Cristina Jisa Lavinia Pintea Sebastian Rusu Alina David Daniel (2012): Children with autism social engagement in interaction with Nao, an imitative robot A series of single case experiments. In: Interaction Studies, 13 (3), pp. 315-347, 2012, ISSN: 1572-0373. link
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