Robots To Assess Children’s Mental Wellbeing

By Durgalakshmi.S

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A team of researchers demonstrate that robots can detect mental wellbeing problems in children that require parent-reported or self-reported testing.

Image Credit – University of Cambridge

Roboticists and researchers from University of Cambridge conducted a study with 28 children. They introduced a child-humanoid robot among the children to assess the participants with a series of standard psychological questionnaires. The robot performed four different tasks during each session.

1) Ask open-ended questions on happy and sad memories over the week
2) Administer Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (SMFQ)
3) Administer a picture task which requires the children to answer related to pictures
4) Administer the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS)

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On completing SMFQ, the children were divided into three groups based on their likeness with their mental wellbeing. Then the participants interact with the robots either by speaking with it or by touching the sensors on its hands and feet. The robots are also incorporated with additional sensors to track the participant’s heartbeat, head and eye movements.

The participants enjoyed the session as it was a child-sized robot. Some children with mental illness even opened up to the robot, which didn’t happen with even their parents. The sessions created more positive responses for the children with zero mental illness problems.

“Since the robot we use is child-sized, and completely non-threatening, children might see the robot as a confidante – they feel like they won’t get into trouble if they share secrets with it,” said Nida Itrat Abbasi, first author of the study.

The team expects to expand their survey by including more participants in the future. They are also investigating whether similar results can be achieved through a robot video chat. They believe this robot to be a useful alternative for the traditional mental health assessment methods. However, they can never substitute professional mental health support.


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