ELE - A Conversational Social Robot for Persons with Neuro-Developmental Disorders

  • Davide FisicaroEmail author
  • Franca Garzotto
  • Mirko Gelsomini
  • Francesco Pozzi
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11746)


Several studies explore the use of social robots in interventions for persons with cognitive disability. This paper describes ELE, a plush social robot with an elephant appearance that has been designed as a conversational companion for persons with Neuro-Developmental Disorders (NDD). ELE speaks through the live voice of a remote caregiver, enriching the communication through body movements. It is integrated with a tool for automatic gathering and analysis of interaction data that support therapists in monitoring the users during the experience with the robotic companion. The paper describes the design and technology of ELE and presents an empirical study that involved eleven persons with NDD using the robot at a local therapeutic center. We compared user engagement in two story-telling experiences, one with ELE and one with a face-to-face human speaker. According to our results, the participants were more engaged with ELE than with the human storyteller, which indicates, although tentatively, the engagement potential of conversational social robots for persons with NDD.


NDD (Neurodevelopmental Disorder) Disability Social robot Conversational companion Engagement Storytelling 



The authors are grateful to Gianmarco Giummarra, Salvatore Ferrigno and Mattia Melli for their contribution to the development of ELE and to the execution of the empirical study. We warmly thank all persons at the therapeutic center Fraternità e Amicizia (Milan) who participated in our research.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MP4 11609 kb).


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Davide Fisicaro
    • 1
    Email author
  • Franca Garzotto
    • 1
  • Mirko Gelsomini
    • 1
  • Francesco Pozzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Politecnico di MilanoMilanItaly

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