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The Role of Modular Robotics in Mediating Nonverbal Social Exchanges

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3 Author(s)
Marti, P. ; Univ. of Siena, Siena ; Giusti, L. ; Lund, H.H.

This paper outlines the use of modular robotics to encourage and facilitate nonverbal communication during therapeutic intervention in dementia care. A set of new socially interactive modular robotic devices called rolling pins (RPs) has been designed and developed to assist the therapist in interacting with dementia-affected patients. The RPs are semitransparent plastic tubes that are capable of measuring their orientation and the speed of their rotation; at a local level, they have three types of feedback: red, green, and blue light, sound, and vibration. The peculiarity of the RPs is that they are able to communicate with each other or with other devices equipped with the same radio communication technology. The RPs are usually used in pairs, as the local feedback of an RP can be set depending not only on its own speed and orientation but also on the speed and the orientation of the peer RP. The system is not used as a therapeutic tool per se but as a facilitator and a mediator of social dynamics during normal therapy to counteract social isolation that can result in dementia through the loss of social skills. An experiment is reported that shows that by using the RPs, the patients participated in the activity by coordinating their behavior with the therapist and imitating the same interaction patterns generated by the therapist.

Published in:

Robotics, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:25 ,  Issue: 3 )