Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 11, pp 3726–3734 | Cite as

Can Robotic Interaction Improve Joint Attention Skills?

  • Zachary E. WarrenEmail author
  • Zhi Zheng
  • Amy R. Swanson
  • Esubalew Bekele
  • Lian Zhang
  • Julie A. Crittendon
  • Amy F. Weitlauf
  • Nilanjan Sarkar
Original Paper


Although it has often been argued that clinical applications of advanced technology may hold promise for addressing impairments associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), relatively few investigations have indexed the impact of intervention and feedback approaches. This pilot study investigated the application of a novel robotic interaction system capable of administering and adjusting joint attention prompts to a small group (n = 6) of children with ASD. Across a series of four sessions, children improved in their ability to orient to prompts administered by the robotic system and continued to display strong attention toward the humanoid robot over time. The results highlight both potential benefits of robotic systems for directed intervention approaches as well as potent limitations of existing humanoid robotic platforms.


Autism spectrum disorder Robotics Technology Joint attention 



This study was supported by in part by a grant from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (Hobbs Grant), the Marino Autism Research Institute, a Vanderbilt University Innovation and Discovery in Engineering and Science (IDEAS) grant, the National Science Foundation under Grant 0967170, and the National Institute of Health under Grant 1R01MH091102-01A1. Work also includes core support from NICHD (P30HD15052) and NCATS (UL1TR000445-06). We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the parents and children who took part in this study and the support of the clinical research staff of the AUTOSLAB and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zachary E. Warren
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Zhi Zheng
    • 2
  • Amy R. Swanson
    • 3
  • Esubalew Bekele
    • 2
  • Lian Zhang
    • 2
  • Julie A. Crittendon
    • 4
  • Amy F. Weitlauf
    • 5
  • Nilanjan Sarkar
    • 6
  1. 1.Departments of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Special Education, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum DisordersVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum DisordersVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum DisordersVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum DisordersVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of Mechanical Engineering and Computer EngineeringVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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