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Therabot™

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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.
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TherabotTM: A Robot Therapy Support System in Action
Christopher Collins
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS, USA
cac560@msstate.edu
Dexter Duckworth
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS, USA
dwd81@msstate.edu
Zachary Henkel
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS, USA
zmh68@msstate.edu
Stephanie Wuisan
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS, USA
sjw139@msstate.edu
Cindy L. Bethel
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS, USA
cbethel@cse.msstate.edu
ABSTRACT
TherabotTM is an assistive-robotic therapy system designed
to provide support during counseling sessions and home ther-
apy practice to patients diagnosed with conditions associ-
ated with trauma. It has the form factor of a floppy-eared
dog with coloring similar to that of a beagle, and comfort-
ably fits in a person’s lap.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
I.2.9 [Artificial Intelligence]: Robotics; J.4 [Computer
Applications]: Social and Behavioral Sciences—Psychol-
ogy
1. INTRODUCTION
An issue of growing concern in the United States is the
prevalence of sexual victimization and violence [1]. The fo-
cus of this research effort was the physical design of the
TherabotTM assistive-robot therapy system to provide sup-
port to victims of trauma during counseling and home ther-
apy practice. Therapists have found it helpful to provide
victims of trauma with stuffed animals not only as a means
of comfort, but also as a tool to ground the victims by giving
them an object they can hold, touch, and cuddle [2].
Figure 1: Conceptual rendering
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HRI’15 Extended Abstracts, March 2–5, 2015, Portland, Oregon, USA.
ACM 978-1-4503-2883-8/15/03.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2701973.2702695.
2. ROBOT DESIGN
Based on responses from three surveys, the robot was de-
signed to be about the size of a small pillow so as to fit
comfortably in a person’s lap. Additionally, the robot is
designed with a padded, furry covering that resembles the
fur of a stuffed animal. Some of the participants expressed
interest in a therapy robot that would be reactive to touch
like a real therapy animal. Not only does the robot have
touch sensors in its paws, head, and ears, it also has an ar-
ray of sensors along its chest and back. The robot’s torso
also contains a thermometer and barometer to determine if
the robot is being squeezed or held closely.
Above all else, TherabotTM was designed to be responsive
to user interaction. The robot’s legs have compliant joints
and the robot has an onboard IMU that allows it to detect
when it is moved. The robot has an electret microphone
in each of its ears to perform sound localization, as well as
a high-quality microphone that can be used to record au-
dio, allowing therapists to record sessions through a custom
interface.
3. DEMO
This demonstration shows the appearance and function-
ality of the TherabotTM robot using pre-programmed rou-
tines and artificial intelligence. We will display the life-like
motion of the legs, ears, tail, and head of the robot. Indi-
vidually actuated to move up and down, the legs will move
similarly to a dog shaking its paws. The ears will help dis-
play emotion by raising and lowering at their base. To help
show excitement, the tail will have the ability to wag back
and forth. Three degrees of freedom lie in the head allowing
TherabotTM to look up and down, left and right, and tilt its
head from side to side. All actuation will be in response to
external stimuli to provide a therapeutic effect and create
the appearance of a living dog.
4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was sponsored by the National Science Foun-
dation Under Grant IIS-1249488.
5. REFERENCES
[1] CDC. Understanding sexual violence fact sheet, 2012.
[2] J. Donatelli. Stuffed animals help pacify sexual assault
victims. Gazette.net, January 12 2006.
Article
Full-text available
Today’s teens will most likely be the first generation to spend a lifetime living and interacting with both mechanical and social robots. Although human–robot interaction has been explored in children, adults, and seniors, examination of teen–robot interaction has been limited. In this paper, we provide evidence that teen–robot interaction is a unique area of inquiry and designing for teens is categorically different from other types of human–robot interaction. Using human-centered design, our team is developing a social robot to gather stress and mood data from teens in a public high school. To better understand teen–robot interaction, we conducted an interaction study in the wild to explore and capture teens’ interactions with a low-fidelity social robot prototype. Then, through group interviews we gathered data regarding their perceptions about social robots. Although we anticipated minimal engagement due to the low fidelity of our prototype, teens showed strong engagement and lengthy interactions. Additionally, teens expressed thoughtful articulations of how a social robot could be emotionally supportive. We conclude the paper by discussing future areas for consideration when designing for teen–robot interaction.
Stuffed animals help pacify sexual assault victims. Gazette
  • J Donatelli
J. Donatelli. Stuffed animals help pacify sexual assault victims. Gazette.net, January 12 2006.