Robots could help identify mental health issues in children, study finds UK News


Robots could help identify mental health issues in children, study finds

A child-sized humanoid robot was used by researchers from the University of Cambridge to complete a series of questionnaires to assess the mental well-being of 28 children between the ages of eight and 13.

The research found that the youngsters were willing to confide in the robot and sometimes shared information that they had not previously shared online or through face-to-face questionnaires.

Although the robots are not intended to be used as a replacement for mental health support, the researchers say they could be a useful addition to mental health assessment methods.

PhD student Nida Itrat Abbasi, the study’s first author, said: “Because the robot we’re using is child-friendly and completely safe, children may see the robot as a confidant – they feel like they won’t get in trouble for sharing.” secrets with him.

“Other researchers have found that children are more likely to pass on private information – such as being bullied – to a robot than to an adult.”

Each child had a 45-minute individual session with a Nao robot, a humanoid robot about 60 cm tall.

The children interacted with the robot by talking to it or touching sensors on the robot’s hands and feet. Additional sensors tracked their heartbeat, head and eye movements throughout the session.

Children “engage” more with robots than with screens

Professor Hatice Gunes, head of the Affective Intelligence and Robotics Laboratory at the Department of Computer Science and Technology in Cambridge, has explored how socially supportive robots can be used as adult mental wellbeing coaches.

In recent years, she has also researched how they can benefit children.

She said kids are “quite tactile” and “attracted to technology.”

“When they use a screen-based tool, they become withdrawn from the physical world.

“But robots are perfect because they’re in the physical world — they’re more interactive, so the kids are more engaged,” she added.

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