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01-08-2016 | Continuing Education | Issue 4/2016 Open Access

International Journal of Social Robotics 4/2016

Understanding Therapists’ Needs and Attitudes Towards Robotic Support. The Roboterapia Project

International Journal of Social Robotics > Issue 4/2016
Igor Zubrycki, Grzegorz Granosik


Robots have been recently used as valuable therapeutic devices in numerous studies (especially with children with developmental needs), but their role as more general support for therapists is less well studied. However, as robots become better integrated in therapeutic environments, they will also influence therapists; and if robots are designed correctly, they could positively influence therapists’ well-being. Understanding how robots could be used in such a way is especially important as therapists of autistic children (and therapists of mentally disabled people in general) have one of the highest risks of workplace burnout. This paper describes a series of studies conducted to understand therapists’ attitudes towards robotic support and to discover what is most needed in such devices; this paper also describes an experimental study of the feasibility of robots playing one of those roles. Through observational studies and a series of ten meetings, with a group of seven therapists of autism, a list of possible roles was created. In a larger questionnaire based study, therapists gave a ranking to various robot roles and functions (a child’s behaviour analyser and support in critical/dangerous situations were given the highest priority). Therapists also stated that they expect robots to help them in the workplace, help prepare documentation and make their work more systematic. In a Wizard-of-Oz type experimental study, a robot was used to play a role of “emotional mirror” with seven therapist-child pairs. Study participants stated that a robot was acceptable and was not disturbing, although most did not find it particularly useful. Our conclusions indicate that therapists want robots to play a larger role than just a therapeutic device, and such roles can be added to robots without disturbing sessions with clients.

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