Honors College Thesis


The Impact of a Socially Assistive Robot on Peer and Toy-Use Interactions During Children’s Free Play Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this study was to determine the viability of a mobile socially assistive robot (SAR) in a children’s free play environment. The researchers hypothesized that the SAR would prompt more movement among the participants. In order to test this, the researchers utilized a matched pair study in which six children attended seven weekly play sessions with four baseline sessions (weeks one to four) and three intervention sessions (weeks five to seven). Each play session was recorded for 30 minutes, during which all the participants engaged in several types of play behavior and with a variety of different toys. Researchers coded these physical activity, play, and toy-use behaviors. The SAR helped create novel experiences, facilitate movement, and encourage imaginative play. Examples of this were children playing catch with the robot or making and delivering food to the robot, two play opportunities that were previously not available during the baseline stage. Despite the fact that there was an observed decrease in peer interaction, the increase in adult interaction demonstrates that children became more comfortable within the play space as shown by significant increases in child-initiated play with the researchers. Ultimately, the results show that the SAR has viability as a support for helping children feel more comfortable within a classroom environment.
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