Human-robot interaction in autism: FACE, an android-based social therapy

G. Pioggia, M. L. Sica, M. Ferro, R. Igliozzi, F. Muratori, A. Ahluwalia, D. De Rossi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In human-machine social interaction, the intersection between biology and engineering needs a context which allows for the development of adapting dynamics. The android FACE is able to interact with the external environment, interpreting and conveying emotions through non verbal communication. FACE captures expressive and psychophysical correlates from its interlocutor and actuates behaviours following two communicative modalities of semeiology. FACE interacts with kinesics, non verbal communication conveyed by body part movements, or facial expressions, and so on, taking into account the proxemic space. FACE's goal is define and test a therapeutic protocol for autism in order to enhance social and emotive abilities in people with autism. Data regarding our latest clinical study are reported. The clinical study was aimed at verifying FACE's capabilities in enhancing imitative skills and shared attention in subjects with autism. In particular, we monitored their attention towards FACE and then we checked if the android remains a restricted and repetitive interest or an object to share with the therapist. The study involved an experimental group, composed of 4 children with autism. The participants were diagnosed using ADI-R and ADOS-G, two specific diagnostic instruments. The experimental set up consisted of a specially equipped room provided with two remotely orientable cameras in which the subject, under the supervision of a therapist, can interact with FACE. During twenty minutes sessions, we observed both spontaneous behavior of the participants and their reactions to therapists presses in correlation with the time course of the physiological and behavioural data. The participants showed a spontaneous ability of imitation of the head and facial movements of the android. Moreover we observed that the children with autism focused their attention towards FACE's eye movements following verbal suggestions from the therapist.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - IEEE International Workshop on Robot and Human Interactive Communication
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Event16th IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, RO-MAN - Jeju, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Aug 26 2007Aug 29 2007


Other16th IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, RO-MAN
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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