Modeling engagement in long-term, in-home socially assistive robot interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders

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Science Robotics  26 Feb 2020:
Vol. 5, Issue 39, eaaz3791
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aaz3791


Socially assistive robotics (SAR) has great potential to provide accessible, affordable, and personalized therapeutic interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, human-robot interaction (HRI) methods are still limited in their ability to autonomously recognize and respond to behavioral cues, especially in atypical users and everyday settings. This work applies supervised machine-learning algorithms to model user engagement in the context of long-term, in-home SAR interventions for children with ASD. Specifically, we present two types of engagement models for each user: (i) generalized models trained on data from different users and (ii) individualized models trained on an early subset of the user’s data. The models achieved about 90% accuracy (AUROC) for post hoc binary classification of engagement, despite the high variance in data observed across users, sessions, and engagement states. Moreover, temporal patterns in model predictions could be used to reliably initiate reengagement actions at appropriate times. These results validate the feasibility and challenges of recognition and response to user disengagement in long-term, real-world HRI settings. The contributions of this work also inform the design of engaging and personalized HRI, especially for the ASD community.

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