Conference paper Open Access

Play and learn with an intelligent robot: Enhancing the therapy of hearing-impaired children

Ioannou Andri; Andreva Anna

This study suggests an innovative way of using an intelligent robot to support speech therapy for hearing impaired children through play. Although medical technology (e.g., hearing aid, cochlear implant) for children with hear-ing impairment has advanced significantly, the amplification itself does not provide optimal development of hearing and speaking; it must be combined with specialized therapy. The present study focuses on the use of the humanoid robot NAO in auditory-verbal therapy, an approach to the development of audi-tory and verbal skills, which does not allow lipreading or other non-verbal cues to facilitate communication. NAO does not have a human mouth and therefore children with hearing impairment cannot do lipreading; this unique characteris-tic of the technology has been successfully used in the study to create playful and engaging auditory-verbal therapy sessions for six kindergarten hearing im-paired children, allowing them to improve their ability to follow instructions us-ing the hearing aid/ cochlear implant rather than visual clues in the environ-ment. Our results, although preliminary, seem to encourage further research in supporting hearing-impaired children via play with intelligent robots.

This work has been partly supported by the project that has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 739578 (RISE – Call: H2020-WIDESPREAD-01-2016-2017-TeamingPhase2) and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Directorate General for European Programmes, Coordination and Development.
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