Investigation into the Development of a Parrot-inspired Therapeutic Robot to Improve Learning and Social Interaction of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Bharatharaj, Jaishankar
Huang, Loulin
Al-Jumaily, Ahmed
Krägeloh, Christian
Mohan, Rajesh Elara
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This research reports on the design and development of a parrot-inspired therapeutic robot to improve learning and social interaction abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder. The research also aims to reduce stress levels of participants through robot-assisted therapy. The increasing deployment of robots in recent decades has inspired new boundaries for human-robot interactions from manufacturing to health industries. Particularly, assistive robotics has found new directions in recent years and been used in numerous applications, including, elderly care, and autism therapy. With inspiration from nature, bio-inspired robots can provide solutions to various problems, which have been applied successfully in real-world situations. Specifically, animal-inspired robots have received notable acceptance in therapeutic settings, such as therapy for the elderly, children with autism spectrum disorder, and patients with dementia. A number of animal-like robots are developed to provide the benefits of animal-assisted therapy, while overcoming shortfalls, such as biting, allergies, and animal-spread diseases. Autism therapy is one such area for the deployment of animal-inspired robots to improve the lifestyle of children with autism spectrum disorder. Through an extensive review of the literature and reported benefits, the morphological form for the robot was determined to be parrots for their significant companionship contributed by their living counterparts in various disorders. In this research, a parrot-inspired therapeutic robot is designed to provide therapeutic benefits. The novelty of the research also lies in the fact that there is a complete absence of any robotic study involving the design and development of a parrot-like robot. The research is set to target improvement in learning and social interaction abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder through engaging a parrot-inspired robot, which represents a common and significant procedure for individuals with limited cognitive capabilities. The research also investigates the psychological and physiological changes in children before and after interacting with the robot. Several short-term and long-term user studies conducted to validate the effects of robot among children report a positive influence in improvement of learning and social interaction in participants. Salivary and urinary tests indicated reduction in stress levels of children with ASD after interacting with the robot. The research investigating participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels in blood and reported no abnormality in readings during and after interacting with the robot.

Autism therapy , Bio-inspired robot , Parrot-robot , Robot-assisted therapy , Autism spectrum disorder , Assistive robotics , Animal-assisted therapy , Autism teaching
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