Robot-enhanced therapy: Development and validation of supervised autonomous robotic system for autism spectrum disorders therapy

Robot-assisted therapy (RAT) offers potential advantages for improving the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This article provides an overview of the developed technology and clinical results of the EC-FP7-funded Development of Robot-Enhanced therapy for children with AutisM spectrum disorders (DREAM) project, which aims to develop the next level of RAT in both clinical and technological perspectives, commonly referred to as robot-enhanced therapy (RET). Within this project, a supervised autonomous robotic system is collaboratively developed by an interdisciplinary consortium including psychotherapists, cognitive scientists, roboticists, computer scientists, and ethicists, which allows robot control to exceed classical remote control methods, e.g., Wizard of Oz (WoZ), while ensuring safe and ethical robot behavior. Rigorous clinical studies are conducted to validate the efficacy of RET. Current results indicate that RET can obtain an equivalent performance compared to that of human standard therapy for children with ASDs. We also discuss the next steps of developing RET robotic systems.