Research Contributions

Enabling robotic pets to autonomously adapt their own behaviors to enhance therapeutic effects: A data-driven approach

Bennett, Casey C., Selma Sabanovic, Cedomir Stanojevic, Zachary Henkel, Seongcheol Kim, Jinjae Lee, Kenna Baugus, Jennifer A. Piatt, Janghoon Yu, Jiyeong Oh, Sawyer Collins, Cindy L. Bethel. “Enabling robotic pets to autonomously adapt their own behaviors to enhance therapeutic effects: A data-driven approach.”

This paper has been accepted to the 2023 IEEE Ro-Man conference.

What skin is your robot in?

Collins, Sawyer, Daniel Hicks, Zachary Henkel, Kenna Baugus Henkel, Jennifer A. Piatt, Cindy L. Bethel, and Selma Sabanovic. “What skin is your robot in?” In 2023 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.

This paper explores the customization of Therabot for adults with depression. By using Therabot as a base platform, participants designed their own unique covering for the robot, and discussed desired robot behaviors and privacy concerns around data collection. Though the physical designs of the robots varied greatly, participants expressed common themes regarding their preference for a soft touchable exterior, comfort with sharing data with their therapists, and interest in the robot producing more realistic sounds and movements, among other design features.

User expectations of privacy in robot assisted therapy

Henkel, Zachary, Kenna Baugus, Cindy L. Bethel, and David C. May. “User expectations of privacy in robot assisted therapy.” Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics 10, no. 1 (2019): 140-159.

This article describes ethical issues related to the design and use of social robots in sensitive contexts like psychological interventions and provides insights from one user design study and two controlled experiments with adults and children. User expectations regarding privacy with a therapeutic robotic dog, Therabot, gathered from a 16 participant design study are presented. Furthermore, results from 142 forensic interviews about bullying experiences conducted with children (ages 8 to 17) using three different social robots (Nao, Female RoboKind, Male RoboKind) and humans (female and male) as forensic interviewers are examined to provide insights into child beliefs about privacy and social judgment in sensitive interactions with social robots. The data collected indicates that adult participants felt a therapeutic robotic dog would be most useful for children in comparison to other age groups, and should include privacy safeguards. Data obtained from children after a forensic interview about their bullying experiences shows that they perceive social robots as providing significantly more socially protective factors than adult humans. These findings provide insight into how children perceive social robots and illustrate the need for careful considerationwhen designing social robots that will be used in sensitive contexts with vulnerable users like children.

Therabot – 2015

Therabot™ is an assistive-robotic therapy system designed to provide support during counseling sessions and home therapy practice to patients diagnosed with conditions associated with trauma. It has the form factor of a floppy-eared dog with coloring similar to that of a beagle, and comfortably fits in a person’s lap.

Therabot-an Adaptive Therapeutic Support Robot

Bethel, Cindy L., Zachary Henkel, Sarah Darrow, and Kenna Baugus. “Therabot-an Adaptive Therapeutic Support Robot.” In 2018 World Symposium on Digital Intelligence for Systems and Machines (DISA), pp. 23-30. IEEE, 2018.

Mental health disorders are a prominent problem across the world. An effective treatment has been the use of animal-assisted therapy; however not everyone can interact with and/or care for a live animal. Therabot™ has been developed as an assistive robot to provide therapeutic support at home and in the counseling setting. Therabot™ is designed as a stuffed robotic dog and has adaptive touch sensing to allow for improved human-robot interactions. Through its touch sensing, it will determine if the level of stress of its users is increasing and adapt to provide support during therapy sessions and for home therapy practice. Over time, Therabot™ is expected to learn the preferences of its user and adapt its behaviors.