In collaboration with our partners from Honda Research Institute (Japan), Indiana University (USA) and University of Seville (Spain), we have developed an app-based robot called Haru4Kids (H4K) that brings educational and entertainment content to the children’s homes. A first set of long-term cohabitation experiments have been conducted with seven families that hosted H4K for two weeks. The main goals of these experiments were to check the engagement of different activities and explore privacy matters. The results have been shared in a scientific paper and validated through peer-review process at the ICSR conference.
In a joint effort with Honda Research Institute (Japan), University of Sidney (Australia) and Universidad Pablo Olavide (Spain), we have applied the Haru robotic platform as an embodied mediator in a school setup. Haru’s role was to support children’s emotional and social skill development by connecting them to their peers in different parts of the world. A first set of preliminary tests has been carried out connecting schools from Japan and Australia. Children engaged in some activities suggested and dynamized by Haru.
Together with our research partners, we are designing an application of HARU for the Spanish Association for the Effects of Cancer Treatment (asociacionetc.org). The goal of this initiative is to bring the lessons learnt in the previous scenarios to children who must stay extended periods of time in hospital. During 2023 a pilot study is going to be conducted exploring the best usage of a robotic platform in this context.
Our solutions are designed while having kids’ privacy as a number one priority. An Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was obtained prior to starting the experiments. Caregivers provided consent and children aged 7 or older provided written assent. Families were informed that they could opt-in for image and audio recording during their usage of H4K, but by default both image and audio options were deactivated. They were also informed that, even if they opted-in, no image or audio would ever be uploaded to the cloud. To avoid excessive usage, parents could configure H4K settings adapting the allowed usage time. By default, the system had no restriction, but parents were instructed in how to modify that option if they wanted to. H4K settings include a field that let families configure the age of the youngest kid at home. The activities were classified with the minimum appropriate age, so no content designed for older children was provided to younger ones.
Inclusion with global reach
The experiments that are being conducted in the three scenarios (at home, at hospital and at school), are taking place in many different countries in the five continents. We want to make sure that the educational tool is inclusive, taking into consideration different dimensions of diversity, including gender, geography, socio-economic level, culture and religion. Regarding the activities included in the tool, they are designed under the supervision of neuropsychologists with the main objective to stimulate children’s brains. The typology of activities is varied, in order to work different cognitive functions and capabilities, such as attention, memory, language, reasoning, comprehension, perception and processing speed.
Our results are objectively measured by going through the peer-reviewing process of some of the main scientific conferences on the social robotics field. So far, 4i and our partners have published the following scientific contributions:
- "Hey Haru, Let’s Be Friends! Using the Tiers of Friendship to Build Rapport through Small Talk with the Tabletop Robot Haru" E. Nichols et al. IROS 2022.
- "Living with Haru4Kids: Child and Parent Perceptions of a Co-Habitation Robot for Children" L. Levinson et al. ICSR 2022.