Socially Assistive Infant-Robot Interaction: Using Robots to Encourage Infant Leg-Motion Training Articles uri icon


  • Fitter, Naomi T.
  • Funke, Rebecca
  • Eisenman, Lauren E.
  • Deng, Weiyang
  • Rosales, Marcelo R.
  • Bradley, Nina S.
  • Sargent, Barbara
  • Smith, Beth A.
  • Mataric, Maja J.

publication date

  • June 2019

start page

  • 12

end page

  • 23


  • 2


  • 26

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1070-9932

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1558-223X


  • Early interventions have the potential to positivelyinfluence infant movement patterns and support optimal neurodevelopmental outcomes. This work developed and validateda non-contact socially assistive infant-robot interaction systemthat aimed to use contingent reward learning and imitation todeliver effective early interventions that complement humandelivered therapy.The described study explored if infants demonstrate contingent learning and imitation behavior in response to movements by a similarly-sized NAO humanoid robot. Twelve 6-to 8-month-old infants participated in a within-subjects studythat compared different robot contingent reward policies forencouraging leg movement. Nine of the twelve participantslearned the contingency. Of these learners, two respondedless to the movement and lights reward than other rewards.Nine of the twelve infants imitated the NAO robot during atleast one reward condition phase. These imitators displayeddifferent learning rates and sometimes changed their behaviorto imitate less during later reward conditions. Infants weregenerally alert and non-fussy when interacting with the robot.Parents of participants perceived the robot reward involvingboth movement and sound to be most engaging for theirchildren.To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first foray intousing socially assistive robots with infants. As this new researcharea develops, our results aim to inform continued work intotargeted robot-assisted infant motion interventions.


  • legged locomotion; robot kinematics; humanoid robots; medical treatment; delays; toy manufacturing industry; assistive technology