Ramona SIMUT*1, Greet VAN de PERRE1, Cristina COSTESCU3,
Jelle SALDIEN2, Johan VANDERFAEILLIE1, Daniel DAVID3,
Dirk LEBEFER2, Bram VANDERBORGHT2
1Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
2Howest University College, Kortrijk, Belgium
3Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
There has been a considerable transformation in game preferences of children with the rapid development of information and communication technology. Computer games became the mostly preferred spare time activity for children of different ages. Several studies found that technology, ranging from computer applications to social robots, can act as a mediator to improve interaction for children with social impairments. The contribution presented is an intermediate step which combines the embodiment with tangible and intuitive interaction that social robots can offer and an affordable and autonomous solution as a computer game. Probogotchi is a way to play an educational computer game, where children have to interact with a toy equipped with sensors connected to a PC. The control architecture is built around an artificial homeostatic system for social agents and is set to simulate pet-like behavior, resulting in a dependency on the user’s interactions. As such, affective human-computer interaction is achieved. The homeostatic regulation is an autonomous system that uses input stimuli from a tactile and object identification system to detect certain actions originating from the user. If an action is triggered, it will influence the internal needs that are subsequently translated into an emotional state. This emotional state is communicated back to the user by a virtual model showing the corresponding facial expression. For the evaluation section, a preliminary study using Probogotchi as a bridge for interaction between a child with ASD and his typically developed sibling is for the first time described. Quantitative data and qualitative observations are presented. The paper concludes with a focus on the technical limitations and also on future developments and implications for the clinical use of Probogotchi game for children with autism.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, computer games, social skills