OmniSkins: Robotic skins that turn inanimate objects into multifunctional robots

Robots generally excel at specific tasks in structured environments but lack the versatility and the adaptability required to interact with and locomote within the natural world. To increase versatility in robot design, we present robotic skins that can wrap around arbitrary soft bodies to induce the desired motions and deformations. Robotic skins integrate actuation and sensing into a single conformable material and may be leveraged to create a multitude of controllable soft robots with different functions or gaits to accommodate the demands of different environments. We show that attaching the same robotic skin to a soft body in different ways, or to different soft bodies, leads to distinct motions. Further, we show that combining multiple robotic skins enables complex motions and functions. We demonstrate the versatility of this soft robot design approach in a wide range of applications—including manipulation tasks, locomotion, and wearables—using the same two-dimensional (2D) robotic skins reconfigured on the surface of various 3D soft, inanimate objects.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content

Improving social skills in children with ASD using a long-term, in-home social robot

Social robots can offer tremendous possibilities for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) interventions. To date, most studies with this population have used short, isolated encounters in controlled laboratory settings. Our study focused on a 1-month, home-based intervention for increasing social communication skills of 12 children with ASD between 6 and 12 years old using an autonomous social robot. The children engaged in a triadic interaction with a caregiver and the robot for 30 min every day to complete activities on emotional storytelling, perspective-taking, and sequencing. The robot encouraged engagement, adapted the difficulty of the activities to the child’s past performance, and modeled positive social skills. The system maintained engagement over the 1-month deployment, and children showed improvement on joint attention skills with adults when not in the presence of the robot. These results were also consistent with caregiver questionnaires. Caregivers reported less prompting over time and overall increased communication.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content

Reading socially: Transforming the in-home reading experience with a learning-companion robot

Social robots hold great promise as companions and peer learners for children, yet little is known about how they can be best designed for this population, what interaction scenarios can benefit from their use, and how they might fit into learning activities and environments. We aimed to close this gap by designing a learning-companion robot to augment guided reading activity and examined the robot’s impact on an in-home reading experience. In this paper, we compared the experiences of early adolescent children aged 10 to 12 years (N = 24) who completed guided reading activities either with a learning-companion robot or as a paper-based activity in a 2-week-long, in-home field study. We found similar reading frequency and duration in both conditions and that both guided reading activities were described as positive experiences that helped to build reading skill and to sustain engagement. Children who read with the learning-companion robot further reported that the activities supported reading comprehension and motivated them to read and indicated a deepening social connection (i.e., companionship or affiliation) with the robot. We conclude that, rather than the activity falling off after a novelty effect, our simple prototype social robot is capable of preserving the benefits of an existing in-home learning activity while transforming the reading experience into a valuable, social one. Our findings contribute to an understanding of how we might capitalize on the capacity of social robots to serve as a transformative learning tool as robots become more widely available to the public.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content

Social robots for education: A review

Social robots can be used in education as tutors or peer learners. They have been shown to be effective at increasing cognitive and affective outcomes and have achieved outcomes similar to those of human tutoring on restricted tasks. This is largely because of their physical presence, which traditional learning technologies lack. We review the potential of social robots in education, discuss the technical challenges, and consider how the robot’s appearance and behavior affect learning outcomes.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content

Children conform, adults resist: A robot group induced peer pressure on normative social conformity

People are known to change their behavior and decisions to conform to others, even for obviously incorrect facts. Because of recent developments in artificial intelligence and robotics, robots are increasingly found in human environments, and there, they form a novel social presence. It is as yet unclear whether and to what extent these social robots are able to exert pressure similar to human peers. This study used the Asch paradigm, which shows how participants conform to others while performing a visual judgment task. We first replicated the finding that adults are influenced by their peers but showed that they resist social pressure from a group of small humanoid robots. Next, we repeated the study with 7- to 9-year-old children and showed that children conform to the robots. This raises opportunities as well as concerns for the use of social robots with young and vulnerable cross-sections of society; although conforming can be beneficial, the potential for misuse and the potential impact of erroneous performance cannot be ignored.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content