A robot journey into cognition:The role and implications of augmentative manipulation in child development

  • Author / Creator
    Alvarez Jaramillo,Liliana
  • BACKGROUND: The strong relationship between motor and cognitive development suggests that the limited motor experience of children with physical disabilities can impact their cognitive and perceptual development. The assessment of their cognitive skills is also compromised due to limited verbal communication and motor gestures. Robots have been used to give children with disabilities an opportunity to independently manipulate objects and to reveal their cognitive skills when they use the robots. Although studies have shown that children with physical disabilities can benefit from the use of robots as augmentative manipulation systems, certain critical aspects of this interaction remain unclear. Using the robot as a tool is not the same as direct manipulation. The use of robots as tools and their operating interfaces requires a deeper understanding of developmental considerations. Understanding the additional cognitive and perceptual demands that the use of the robot imposes on the child is crucial. This can guide the selection and adaptation of the control interfaces, robot characteristics and programming to match the needs, skills and developmental age of the child as well as the task and goals. OBJECTIVE: This dissertation is the result of a review of the literature, two studies and a case study developed in order to: 1) determine the behavioral differences between typical and augmentative manipulation and their implications in the performance of a cognitive task by young children; 2) establish the technical feasibility of studying the neurophysiological differences between robot mediated manipulation and typical manipulation, given the characteristics of the robot and the available technology; and 3) determine the neurophysiological differences between typical manipulation and robot augmented manipulation. METHODS: A review of the literature and a theoretical complexity analysis of using robots as manipulation tools were used to establish the implications of augmentative manipulation. A method for technical implementation of behavioral and neurophysiological comparison of typical and augmented manipulation was designed and tested through a pilot study with adult participants. A study was then conducted with 18 – 30 month old typically developing children. Children participated in two versions of the A not B with invisible displacement task. In one version, children used direct reaching and manipulation of the objects and containers; in the other, they used a robotic arm to access the task. Finally, a child with a bilateral brachial plexus injury resulting in limited independent manipulation of objects participated in the robot version of the task, as well as a gaze direction version. Behavioural and neurophysiological data were collected and analyzed. RESULTS: Technical feasibility was established. The technical implementation made it possible to study the two conditions and their neurophysiological correlates. In the study with children behavioural and neurophysiological differences were observed between the two conditions. Children were motivated to use the robot and they attributed animacy and agency to it. Differences in the motor and cognitive demands of both tasks were found. Event related potentials were analyzed and differential activity between the robot and the reaching conditions in frontal, central and parietal electrodes. Response modality (robot vs. typical manipulation) was found to have an effect on cognitive processes underlying successful performance of the task. Advantages, disadvantages, and results obtained from this method for technical implementation are presented. Implications for the study of alternative manipulation are discussed.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Specialization
    • Rehabilitation Science
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Cook, Albert (Communication Sciences and Disorders)
    • Adams, Kim (Rehabilitation Medicine)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Darrah, Johanna (Physical Therapy)
    • Wiebe, Sandra (Psychology)
    • Bisanz, Jeff (Psychology)
    • Lockman, Jeffrey (Psychology, University of Tulane)