2003 Conference Proceedings

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GESTURAL INTERFACES AND ROBOTICS SYSTEM EVALUATED WITH CHILDREN IN SPEECH/LANGUAGE THERAPY

Presenter
Amy J. Brisben, Ph.D.
AnthroTronix, Inc.
387 TechnologyDrive
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-5420
Email: abrisben@anthrotronix.com

Anna D. Lockerd
AnthroTronix, Inc.
387 TechnologyDrive
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-5420
Email: alockerd@anthrotronix.com

Corinna E. Lathan, Ph.D.
AnthroTronix, Inc.
387 TechnologyDrive
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-5420
Email: clathan@anthrotronix.com

Speech and language impairments impact on learning in significant ways, influencing children's ability to read, write, and communicate with others. Difficulties in speech include voice problems, such as pitch and loudness, articulation problems, and fluency problems. Language problems include the use of phonology (rules that govern various combinations of speech sounds), morphology (rules that govern the structure and meaning of words), syntax (rules that govern the order of words in sentences or phrases), and the understanding and use of content. Specific areas of development impacted by language problems include: turn taking in conversation, language initiation, use of different language functions such as protesting, requesting, and negating, sequencing skills, logic development, pre-reading and reading skills, writing skills, and multi-sensory development such as motor planning and social skills.

We conducted a study to validate the technical feasibility of using CosmoBot(tm), an interactive robot toy that can be controlled by gestures or voice in speech/language therapy. Gestures may include reaching for a button, operating a joystick, or activating wearable sensors through body movement. Testing was performed with the end users - children participating in speech therapy and their therapists.

Our goal for this study was to identify specific interventions to accompany the robot, which will then be tested in a clinical outcomes study to be undertaken in 2003. The feedback will also enable us to move toward a manufacturable prototype for use by therapists, teachers, and other professionals working with children with disabilities.

We used a number of different approaches with each child, based on clinical principles, to discover the most appropriate intervention for a given therapy goal. We documented practicality of use with these approaches and reviewed and evaluated the outcomes. We are using this knowledge to develop the prototype with appropriate interventions.

The design, development, and testing of CosmoBot(tm) took place while evaluating the robot's performance in speech therapy sessions with three children, in two presentations, and a number of demonstrations. Improvements in hardware and software were made throughout testing and evaluation. We now have a design ready for beta testing at one clinical and two educational facilities, to be performed in 2003-2004.

The CosmoBot(tm) system is a patented technology (Lathan et al., 2002) that provides the combined advantages of currently existing software and toys used in speech therapy. AnthroTronix, Inc., an engineering, consulting, and product development company in College Park, MD, is developing CosmoBot(tm) and gestural interface technology for rehabilitative and telerehabilitative applications. The rehabilitation tool is focused on a programmable robot because such a robot provides the combined advantages of the currently existing software and toys used in speech therapy. While conventional toys cannot be updated to continue capturing the interests of and challenging the patient, the robot and software program can. On the other hand, while a software program cannot interact with the physical world, the robot and many conventional toys can. It is this combination of flexibility and interactivity with the physical world that makes a programmable robotic toy the center of our innovation. By exploring and manipulating their environment through the robot, children are placed in a position of independence and control and thus is motivated to succeed.

The initial applications for the CosmoBot(tm) rehabilitation tool are Speech/Language Therapy and special education learning. The company has targeted 2 types of consumers for the CosmoBot(tm) product: (1) professionals, such as special education teachers, speech pathologists, therapists, and clinicians for children with disabilities, (2) consumer parents and family members of children with disabilities.

Funded by the National Science Foundation SBIR and by the Department of Education RERC on Telerehabilitation.

References

Lathan, C.E., Tracey, M. R., Vice, J.M., Druin, A., & Plaisant, C. Robotic Apparatus and Wireless Communication System, US Patent Application 10/085, 821 filed February 27, 2002.


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