Monday, 10 June 2013

Robots interviewing children

Guest blog by Luke Wood, PhD Student, Adaptive Systems Research Group

KASPAR the robot
Could a robot ever be effective as a tool for interviewing young children? And, if so, where would this be appropriate?

Recently within the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Research Group, we have been investigating if robots could be used to interview children.

We used our humanoid robot, KASPAR, to interview children. KASPAR is the friendly robot

designed to help children with autism to communicate and develop their social interaction skills. But could KASPAR's minimal expressions also be useful when interviewing children in emotionally sensitive situations such as those with police, healthcare and social services?

Surprisingly, the results of this study were contrary to our expectations. Rather than having a clear preference, the children behaved very similarly towards either of the interviewers whether human or robot. The children revealed similar information and used similar amounts of words, keywords and filler words when responding to both the robot and the human interviewer.

We are developing the robot as a tool to assist professional interviewers where conventional techniques are not working. One of the potential advantages of using a robot is the ability to consciously control the robot's facial expressions and body language precisely. Such control is often very difficult even for professionally-trained interviewers, especially if stressful or traumatic ordeals that children have undergone lead them to reveal surprising or shocking details that make it hard for interviewers to maintain their composure.  But this would be easy for a robot. such as KASPAR.

The paper “Robot-Mediated Interviews - How Effective Is a Humanoid Robot as a Tool for Interviewing Young Children?” is published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

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