Engaging Children in Play Therapy: The Coupling of Virtual Reality Games with Social Robotics

  • Sergio García-VergaraEmail author
  • LaVonda Brown
  • Hae Won Park
  • Ayanna M. Howard
Part of the Studies in Computational Intelligence book series (SCI, volume 536)


Individuals who have impairments in their motor skills typically engage in rehabilitation protocols to improve the recovery of their motor functions. In general, engaging in physical therapy can be tedious and difficult, which can result in demotivating the individual. This is especially true for children who are more susceptible to frustration. Thus, different virtual reality environments and play therapy systems have been developed with the goal of increasing the motivation of individuals engaged in physical therapy. However, although previously developed systems have proven to be effective for the general population, the majority of these systems are not focused on engaging children. Given this motivation, we discuss two technologies that have been shown to positively engage children who are undergoing physical therapy. The first is called the Super Pop VR™ game; a virtual reality environment that not only increases the child’s motivation to continue with his/her therapy exercises, but also provides feedback and tracking of patient performance during game play. The second technology integrates robotics into the virtual gaming scenario through social engagement in order to further maintain the child’s attention when engaged with the system. Results from preliminary studies with typically-developing children have shown their effectiveness. In this chapter, we discuss the functions and advantages of these technologies, and their potential for being integrated into the child’s intervention protocol.


Serious games Physical therapy and rehabilitation Play therapy Social robotics Darwin-OP Super Pop VR™ 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1148903 and under Grant No. 1208287. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergio García-Vergara
    • 1
  • LaVonda Brown
    • 1
  • Hae Won Park
    • 1
  • Ayanna M. Howard
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Electrical and Computer EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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