International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 599–617 | Cite as

A Motivational Approach to Support Healthy Habits in Long-term Child–Robot Interaction

  • Raquel Ros
  • Elettra Oleari
  • Clara Pozzi
  • Francesca Sacchitelli
  • Daniele Baranzini
  • Anahita Bagherzadhalimi
  • Alberto Sanna
  • Yiannis Demiris


We examine the use of role-switching as an intrinsic motivational mechanism to increase engagement in long-term child–robot interaction. The present study describes a learning framework where children between 9 and 11-years-old interact with a robot to improve their knowledge and habits with regards to healthy life-styles. Experiments were carried out in Italy where 41 children were divided in three groups interacting with: (i) a robot with a role-switching mechanism, (ii) a robot without a role-switching mechanism and (iii) an interactive video. Additionally, a control group composed of 43 more children, who were not exposed to any interactive approach, was used as a baseline of the study. During the intervention period, the three groups were exposed to three interactive sessions once a week. The aim of the study was to find any difference in healthy-habits acquisition based on alternative interactive systems, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the role-switch approach as a trigger for engagement and motivation while interacting with a robot. The results provide evidence that the rate of children adopting healthy habits during the intervention period was higher for those interacting with a robot. Moreover, alignment with the robot behaviour and achievement of higher engagement levels were also observed for those children interacting with the robot that used the role-switching mechanism. This supports the notion that role-switching facilitates sustained long-interactions between a child and a robot.


Child–robot interaction Long-term interaction Motivational support Engagement Creative dance 



The work was supported in part by the EU FP7 ALIZ-E project, Grant No. ICT-248116, and EU H2020 project PAL, Grant H2020-PHC-643783. We wish to thank Sara Bellini, Monica Verga and Marco Mosconi for being a key part of this experience as well as the children, their families and teachers who supported us and participated enthusiastically in this research.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Imperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Fondazione Centro San RaffaeleMilanItaly
  3. 3.Ospedale San RaffaeleMilanItaly

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