Infanoid | Keepon | ClayBot
Nihongo | English
Remedial Application for Developmental Disorders

One of our "fields" is a day-care center for children with developmental delays and/or disorders. In the day-care center, children (mostly 2-4 years old), their parents, and nursing staff interact with each other, sometimes in an unconstrained manner (i.e. individually or within a nuclear relationship of child/mother/nurse) and sometimes in rather organized group activities (e.g. rythmique and watching picture-stories). In these dynamically and diversely unfolding interactive activities, the children's actions are watched, responded to, and gradually situated in a social context.

photo: Playroom at the day-care center for children

We placed Keepon (the self-contained wireless version) in a playroom at the day-care center; Keepon was one of the toys scattered over the floor. During the remedial session of 2-3 hours, the children played with Keepon off and on. During the free play, children could play with Keepon anytime. During the group activities, Keepon was moved to the corner so as not to block the activities; however, when a child got bored or stressed out, he or she would be allowed to play with Keepon.

photo: Wireless Keepon (appearance with a fabric outer) photo: Wireless Keepon (inside the outer: the plastic shell) photo: Wireless Keepon (inside the shell: battery etc)

In the playroom, Keepon was operated in Manual Mode. An operator in another room controlled the robot in the following manner: (1) Keepon alternates its gaze between a child's face, the parent's or the nurse's face, and sometimes a toy nearby; (2) when a child acts (e.g. eye-contact, touch, and vocalization), Keepon produces a positive emotional expression (e.g. bobbing a couple of times with sound like "Pop Pop Pop") in response.

Children seen from Keepon

For more than a year (over 500 child-sessions), we observed a group of children with PDD (pervasive developmental disorder), autism, Asperger's syndrome, Down syndrome, and other developmental disorders; some of the children moved in and out during the period.

Through the observations, we recorded the the live interactions between Keepon and the children from the perspective of Keepon. In other words, we recorded all the information from the subjective viewpoint of Keepon as the first person of the interaction. Strictly speaking, this subjectivity belongs to the operator; however, the interaction was mediated by simple actions that Keepon can perform, and every action Keepon performs can be reproduced from the log data. Therefore, we may say that Keepon is both subjective media (which interacts with children) and objective media (through which anyone can re-experience the interaction from the first person's view point) for the study of human sciences.

photo: Keepon's view (A girl is reaching out to Keepon) photo: Keepon's view (A girl is touching Keepon's head)
Children seen from Keepon's eyes
(From pre-experiments at NICT)

In the longitudinal observations, the children showed various actions in relation to Keepon. Sometimes they showed vivid facial expressions that even their parents had not seen before. They also showed prosocial actions like trying to feed Keepon, putting on a cap on its head, and kissing it. As a whole, the observations suggest the following points: