Joint attention has been shown to have an important impact on the development of the social cognition in children. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are especially affected by the lack of joint attention skills. Few studies have shown that early interventions and improvement of these skills in the early child development can improve the social skills in the long term. As a consequence research in using robots as therapy tools providing aid in the development of social skills for children with ASD has increased over the past few years. The goal of this study is to design and implement an interactive game with the humanoid robot Pepper, which incorporates the two most basic emotional postures, happiness and sadness, as an engaging and motivating factor for the children. Furthermore, the game is designed to improve social skills, more specifically the initiation of joint attention in children with social impairments such as children with ASD. Moreover, it aims to help pre-school children develop better social skills through an interactive game with a humanoid robot. The game was design based on proof-of-concept taken from papers which published different ways of investigating or promoting social skills in children. To investigate the effect of using emotional postures, two different versions of the game were implemented: one with emotional postures and one without. The benefits of the emotional postures on the overall game experience and as a social motivation were evaluated using questionnaires that the participants filled in after playing the game. Whether and how the game can aid children with ASD was evaluated using surveys that different people who have experience with children with ASD such as special educators, parents, researchers etc. filled in after watching a promotional video which included both versions of the game. In total twenty volunteers participated in this study to evaluate the proposed methods, 13 played the game and 7 watched the video. The results obtained from the surveys indicated that emotional postures in interactive game are beneficial for increasing engagement and motivation in users. However, it was difficult to conclude whether the designed game could promote the behaviour of initiating joint attention in children with ASD.
D. Stoeva: "Robot-Assisted Game Incorporating Emotional Postures for Children with ASD"; Department of Engineering and Physical Sciences Heriot Watt University, 2018.
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