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Children-Agent Interaction For Assessment and Rehabilitation: From Linguistic Skills To Mental Well-being

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Dervila Glynn.

Theme: Brains and Machines

Abstract: Socially Assistive Robots (SARs) have shown great potential to help children in therapeutic and healthcare contexts. SARs have been used for companionship, learning enhancement, social and communication skills rehabilitation for children with special needs (e.g., autism), and mood improvement. Robots can be used as novel tools to assess and rehabilitate children’s communication skills and mental well-being by providing affordable and accessible therapeutic and mental health services.

In this talk, I will present the various studies I have conducted during my PhD and at the Cambridge Affective Intelligence and Robotics Lab to explore how robots can help assess and rehabilitate children’s communication skills and mental well-being. More specifically, I will provide both quantitative and qualitative results and findings from (i) an exploratory study with children with autism and global developmental disorders to investigate the use of intelligent personal assistants in therapy; (ii) an empirical study involving children with and without language disorders interacting with a physical robot, a virtual agent, and a human counterpart to assess their linguistic skills; (iii) an 8-week longitudinal study involving children with autism and language disorders who interacted either with a physical or a virtual robot to rehabilitate their linguistic skills; and (iv) an empirical study to aid the assessment of mental well-being in children.

These findings can inform and help the child-robot interaction community design and develop new adaptive robots to help assess and rehabilitate linguistic skills and mental well-being in children.

Biography: Micol Spitale is currently a PostDoctoral Researcher at the Affective Intelligence & Robotics Laboratory (AFAR Lab), Department of Computer Science & Technology, University of Cambridge, UK under the supervision of Prof. Hatice Gunes. Her research activities are grounded in the Social Robotics area. She has a background in affective computing, child-robot interaction, and machine learning applications to human behavioural analysis. Her current research focuses on developing socio-emotionally adaptive robots that can foster wellbeing through coaching and psychologically proven interventions. She has been awarded “cum laude” a Ph.D. in Information Technology, Computer Science and Engineering Area at the Politecnico di Milano, co-funded by IBM Italy and EIT Digital, in October 2021, under the supervision of Prof. Franca Garzotto. During her Ph.D., she spent several months at the University of Southern California (USC) in the Interaction Lab as a visiting Ph.D. student, where she explored the use of robots for eliciting empathy during storytelling activities under the supervision of the Prof. Maja Matarić.

Relevant works:

1. Measuring Mental Wellbeing of Children via Human-Robot Interaction: Challenges and Opportunities

2. Computational Audio Modelling for Robot-Assisted Assessment of Children’s Mental Wellbeing

3. Affective Robotics For Wellbeing: A Scoping Review

4. Can Robots Help in the Evaluation of Mental Wellbeing in Children? An Empirical Study

5. Conversational Agents in Therapeutic Interventions for Neurodevelopmental Disorders: A Survey

6. Toward the Introduction of Google Assistant in Therapy for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders: An Exploratory Study

7. Design Patterns of Technology-based Therapeutic Activities for Children with Language Impairments: A Psycholinguistic-Driven Approach

8. “Whom would you like to talk with?” exploring conversational agents for children’s linguistic assessment

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This talk is part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Seminars series.

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