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Analysis of Attention in Child–Robot Interaction Among Children Diagnosed with Cognitive Impairment

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Interacting with social robots has been reported as potentially beneficial for children with social communication difficulties, with one of the promising applications being the practising of social skills, such as joint attention. We present the analysis of attention skills in children with cognitive impairments over a series of child–robot interaction sessions. Here, an interaction consists of five different modules. The first module introduces the child to the robot. The next three modules are the task modules during which children are expected to improve their attention skills during the completion of a series of social tasks. The final module is a free style interaction, where the duration of interaction between the child and robot was used as a proxy to indicate the attention of the child towards a robot. Our analysis showed that the majority of the children reduced their task completion time in modules two to four, indicating an improvement in attention. Moreover, most of the children showed positive engagement towards the robot and spent an average of 120 s during the free style interaction in module five. The positive response suggests that the robot, via child–robot interaction could be a useful and engaging tool to improve attention skills of the children with cognitive impairment.

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We would like to thank Sakinah Idris for her clinical psychology advice and Lindsay J.G. McCutcheon for proofreading this article.


Luthffi Idzhar Ismail received Postgraduate Education Funds from Majlis Amanah Rakyat, MARA (MARA REF: 330407445608) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM REF: UPM/TAM058). This work was co-funded by the EU FP7 DREAM project (Grant Agreement FP7-ICT-611391) and the Niche Research Grant Scheme (NRGS):600-RMI/NRGS 5/3 (11/2013).

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Correspondence to Luthffi Idzhar Ismail.

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Ethical Approval

Ethical approval was granted from the Research Ethics Committee (REC), of Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia (REC reference number: 600-IRMI (5/1/6)) prior to research commencement. Moreover, participant’s official consent to participate in this study were granted from all parents or guardians prior to start the experiment.

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Ismail, L.I., Hanapiah, F.A., Belpaeme, T. et al. Analysis of Attention in Child–Robot Interaction Among Children Diagnosed with Cognitive Impairment. Int J of Soc Robotics (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-020-00628-x

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  • Child–robot interaction
  • Children with cognitive impairment
  • Robotics