Robot-assisted therapy (RAT) is an emerging field that has already seen some success and is likely to develop in the future. One particular application area is within therapies for autism spectrum disorders, in which the viability of the approach has been demonstrated.
The present paper is a vision paper with the aim of identifying research directions in the near future of RAT. Specifically, we argue that the next step in such therapeutic scenarios is the development of more substantial levels of autonomy which would allow the robot to adapt to the individual needs of children over longer periods of time (while remaining under the ultimate supervision of a therapist). We argue that this requires new advances on the level of robot controllers as well as the ability to infer and classify intentions, goals and emotional states of the robot’s interactants. We show that the state of the art in a number of relevant disciplines is now at the point at which such an endeavour can be approached in earnest.
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