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Robot-Enhanced Therapy: The DREAM Project Summary In the article, “Robot-Enhanced Therapy: Developing and Validating a Supervised Autonomous Robotic System for Autism Spectrum Disorders Therapy”, Cao et al. (2019) present an overview of the DREAM project. DREAM (short-form for Development of Robot-Enhanced Therapy for children with AutisM spectrum disorders) is an EC-funded project undertaken by an interdisciplinary team to develop the next generation robot-assisted therapy (RAT), robot-enhanced therapy (RET), for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). According to the article, children with ASDs have a deficit of social interaction skills and communication and also show repetitive behavior and restricted interests, symptoms which can otherwise be reduced through cognitive-behavioral interventions. Among such psychotherapy programs are RAT, which is turning to be labor-intensive as it requires supervision and hence a high human workload according to Cao et al. (2019). With the DREAM project, the researchers aim to develop an autonomous robot system that will address most of the challenges faced with the current RAT systems. Based on the proven idea that children readily engage with robots because they find them more predictable than humans, the researchers will focus on developing clinical interactive capacities for social robots that can operate autonomously and with limited supervision from a psychotherapist. The RET system will feature a cognitive model to capture, analyze, and interpret sensory data from a child, use such percepts to assess the child’s behaviors and then map the child’s behavior to robot actions that are therapist-specific. It should be noted that the actions of next-generation social robots described above will be undertaken under strict ethical rules, providing a rationale for why ethicists are some of the professionals consulted in the DREAM project. Among the top challenges addressed by the DREAM project include developing evidence-based child-robot interaction strategies, a fusion of multi-sensory data and interpretation of the same for diagnostic support, and tailoring behavior assessment and intervention strategies. According to Cao et al. (2019), the focus of the DREAM project is on developing therapies that will be suitable for improving social interactions among children with ASDs. A child who has undergone the therapy should be able to generalize the lessons to daily human interactions. The DREAM project will also explore the potential of multimodal data gathered by the autonomous social robots in providing quantitative support for diagnosis as well as treatment of ASDs among children. Cao et al. (2019) posit that the child-robot interaction will significantly improve the social robot’s understanding of the child’s psychological disposition and hence select the most appropriate therapeutic intervention. Apart from the deliverables discussed above, the DREAM project also hopes to deliver a supervised autonomous system where artificial intelligence is complemented with human intelligence. Basically, a therapist will set high-level goals for the autonomous social robot and occasionally complement the robot’s intelligence with their (the therapist’s) own intelligence. This objective will be achieved using a platform-independent cognitive controller, which will exploit human’s propensity to fill in the gaps in social interactions. Finally, the consortium also takes into account various ethical challenges that must be factored into the development of the autonomous system. In particular, Cao et al. (2019) that the technical design of the robot system has to comply with the existing social, legal, and ethical norms. This is even as the disciplinary continues to explore new ethical and legal issues that could arise from the human-robot interactions.
Reference Cao, H-L et al. (2019). Robot-Enhanced Therapy: Developing and Validating a Supervised Autonomous Robotic System for Autism Spectrum Disorders Therapy. IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, 26(2), pp.49-57.

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