Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09132018-141316

Type of thesis
E-mail address
Human-robot interaction: effects on learning and on cognitive skills
Scientific disciplinary sector
INGEGNERIA - Biorobotics
relatore Prof. DARIO, PAOLO
  • educational robotics
  • executive functions
  • special educational needs
  • STEM
Exam session start date
Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) is an area of research dedicated to studying, creating, and testing robotic systems for use by or with humans. In the HRI field, Assistive Robotics is a new, interdisciplinary and gradually prevalent research area that brings together an extensive range of research fields including robotics, medicine, social and cognitive sciences and neuroscience, among others. In contrast to Interactive Robotics, which aims to entertain and/or create relations with human users, Assistive Robotics focuses on supporting humans in their activities. Assistive Robotics in general and Socially Assistive Robotics (SAR) in particular have the potential to improve the quality of life for an extensive population of users. In the case of SAR, this is done through social interaction. Typically, assisted robots are used with a varied population of users such as individuals with physical impairment, individuals with cognitive disorders, individuals in convalescent care, elderly, and students. <br>If we imagine cognitive changes during lifespan as a curve, describing its trend as rising steeply from infancy to young adulthood and then either maintaining or declining to old age, depending on the specific cognitive ability, we can imagine the intervention of assistive robots during all the lifespan.<br>During childhood, Assistive Robotics technology has been used for education and special education, therapy, and training. In childhood, and in all the lifespan, motivation is recognized as the most significant challenge in rehabilitation, training and education. Assistive Robotics technology has the potential to provide novel means for motivating, monitoring and coaching. Moreover, as the elderly population continues to rise, a great deal of attention and research is dedicated to assistive systems aimed at promoting successful ageing and at intervening as cognitive and physical trainers or evaluators for senior citizens. <br>The present thesis will focus on a specific part of the HRI, and Assistive Robotics in particular. In detail, the thesis will focus on the effect of HRI on learning and on cognitive skills. In this field, during childhood, Educational Robotics (ER) is one of the most promising trends, with application both in typical and atypical development. The thesis will mainly focus on the ER field. ER represents a term widely used to describe the educational use of robotics as a learning tool. It seems clear that ER can represent an interesting and motivating tool in different fields of research, that will surely see further developments in the years to come. With the aim of conducting more rigorous studies, a better definition of the cognitive construct underlying ER effects is needed and may help in operationalizing the ER outcome measures. According to our hypothesis, the main cognitive construct underlying ER is represented by the Executive Functions domain. This work will aim at providing, for the first time in the literature, quantitative data about the efficacy of ER on cognitive functioning and in particular on Executive Functioning abilities, in different settings (educational and clinical) and with different populations (children with typical and atypical development, teachers). <br>In a life-span view, the thesis will report also the effect of new technology on learning and on cognitive skills in the elderly population. In particular, new technologies have been increasingly used over the last years, as assessment tools. Moreover, they have been used as non-pharmacological and non-invasive cognitive interventions, enhancing or, at least, maintaining patients’ cognitive skills to promote the independence and autonomy of people with cognitive impairments. This thesis will focus on the use of two innovative smart tools, developed as instruments for neuropsychological assessment and for combined training for elderly people and subjects with emerging cognitive impairments.<br><br>