Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have challenges in developing good communication and social skills. The ROSA project will use social robots as a tool to teach children with ASD language and communication skills combined with social skills. Social robots possess unique properties, like a human-like, physical body, that distinguish it from learning technology on tablets. The project exploits these properties as a bridge between the digital and the real world.
The project will create and evaluate the ROSA Toolbox. Teachers can use this toolbox to put together lessons using robots that are tailored to the needs of each child and will contribute to variation and motivation for learning. The ROSA Toolbox will be tested in a multi-month trial with over 50 children with ASD. During this trial, the children will have several sessions each week with the robot. The usefulness of robot-assisted training will be assessed by comparing the improvement in the children's language, social and communication skills with and without the robot-assisted training. The knowledge and algorithms developed will also be available to designers and developers of other programs for social robots.
The research is interdisciplinary and combines knowledge about the robot's possibilities with knowledge in education and training of children with ASD and the use of digital tools in such settings. We build on an iterative, user-centered and design approach with involvement of various stakeholders. The project is also investigating the ethical aspects of the use of social robots in education for children with ASD.
In 2021, the project has worked with user-oriented information dissemination and securing broad involvement of children, teachers, and other stakeholders. The project group has gained an increased understanding of the context in which the ROSA tool shall operate through study visits and meetings at Frydenhaug school, and through surveys about ethics and the potential and risks of using social robots in teaching. Furthermore, the project has acquired several versions of the NAO robot, and implemented a rudimentary prototype on them. The robots have been introduced to some students and teachers at Frydenhaug school, and we have observed the first reactions to them.
The Norwegian Computing Center with its knowledge in social robots and digital inclusion leads the ROSA project. The work is carried out in close collaboration with Drammen Municipality, Frydenhaug School, Skoger School, the University of Southeastern Norway, the University of Birmingham, as well as the companies Innocom AS and Cyberbook AS.
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are characterized by behaviors that pose challenges to developing communication and social skills. The project aims to use social robots to teach language skills combined with social and communication skills to children with ASD.
The project will create and evaluate the RObot Supported education for children with ASD (ROSA) toolbox with three parts: Content Creator, for easily creating tailored one-on-one lessons for the unique needs of each child with ASD; Robot Software runs lesson content customized to the robot's capabilities; and Review, for following progress and input for the next lesson. Rosa toolbox targets no specific robot, but content will adjust to a robot's capabilities.
The project employs a sociocultural approach with experts in social robotics, education, and ASD and conduct technological and interdisciplinary research in abstracting robot capabilities, robot-assisted language learning, customizing and personalizing technology for education, and education content for children with ASD. The final prototype will be evaluated in a year-long trial with over 50 children with ASD using the social robot in sessions at school several times a week. The children's language, social, and communication abilities will be compared to at least 50 children with ASD from previous years not in the trial. Items measured include children's motivation and engagement when working during the sessions. Quantitative and qualitative methods will be used and ethical challenges related to use of social robots for children with ASD will be addressed.
Beyond helping children with ASD develop skills, the project will create knowledge about how the effect of embodiment, social robots, language learning, robot training, how social robots can improve language, communication and social skills of children with ASD. The toolbox can be further developed and commercialized to include other content and target other groups for learning.