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Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot




Children with autism need innovative solutions that help them learn to master everyday experiences and cope with stressful situations. We propose that socially assistive robot companions could better understand and react to a child’s needs if they utilized tactile sensing. We examined the existing relevant literature to create an initial set of six tactile-perception requirements, and we then evaluated these requirements through interviews with 11 experienced autism specialists from a variety of backgrounds. Thematic analysis of the comments shared by the specialists revealed three overarching themes: the touch-seeking and touch-avoiding behavior of autistic children, their individual differences and customization needs, and the roles that a touch-perceiving robot could play in such interactions. Using the interview study feedback, we refined our initial list into seven qualitative requirements that describe robustness and maintainability, sensing range, feel, gesture identification, spatial, temporal, and adaptation attributes for the touch-perception system of a robot companion for children with autism. Lastly, by utilizing the literature and current best practices in tactile sensor development and signal processing, we transformed these qualitative requirements into quantitative specifications. We discuss the implications of these requirements for future HRI research in the sensing, computing, and user research communities.

Author(s): Rachael Bevill Burns and Hasti Seifi and Hyosang Lee and Katherine J. Kuchenbecker
Journal: Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics
Year: 2020

Department(s): Haptic Intelligence
Research Project(s): Haptic Empathetic Robot Animal (HERA)
Bibtex Type: Article (article)
Paper Type: Journal

State: Accepted


  title = {Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot},
  author = {Burns, Rachael Bevill and Seifi, Hasti and Lee, Hyosang and Kuchenbecker, Katherine J.},
  journal = {Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics},
  year = {2020}