Photo of small cube shaped robot with orange base on wheels

A low cost mobile robot and user interfaces for children to play

University of Alberta

Maria Fernanda Gomez Medina and Javier Leonardo Castellanos Cruz

Play is a medium for children to explore and interact with the environment through the
manipulation of toys. Through play children develop cognitive, social and linguistic
skills. Play in children with physical disabilities may be compromised due to their
difficulties in reaching and grasping the toys. Assistive robots have been used as a
means for children to interact with the environment and to manipulate objects when
they are playing. However, robots and user interfaces can be expensive. The objective
of this project was develop and test a low cost mobile robot that can be controlled using
two interfaces: a head inclination interface and a switch interface. The former allows
the child to control the control the robot by tilting the head forward and backwards, and
bending the head left and right. The switch interface controls the robot by pressing four
switches that can be placed near the child’s head or any other anatomical site that the
child can control reliably. Additionally, we developed a mobile application for Android
devices that integrates both, a inclination interface and a button interface. A study
conducted with four typically developing children and one adult with cerebral palsy who
used the robot to perform a playful task, showed that all participants could complete the
task with all the interfaces and children had fun playing with it. The long term goal of
the project is to commercialize the robot with multiple interfaces that is affordable by
parents in developing countries.

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