Project name: Autism Diagnostic Observation with Robot Evaluator
Project acronym: ADORE
Dates: 01.09.2014 - 31.08.2018
Total budget: 1,000,000.00 HRK
Funding: Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ)
Project Number: 93743-2014

The main goal of the ADORE project is the development of a robot-based diagnostic protocol and validation of a robotic diagnostic assistant in clinical settings. The robots are used as ASD co-evaluators to help a human evaluator to assess a child's behavior objectively. To the best of our knowledge, such a robot-based ASD diagnostics system is the first of its kind.

The robot-assisted ASD diagnostic protocol consists of four tasks and is based on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) which is considered to be the “golden standard” of ASD diagnostics. Within the tasks, the robot observes social cues such as eye contact, verbal activity and ability to imitate. Since our goal was to make the robot as autonomous as possible, we modelled the tasks using the Mixed Observability Markov Decision Processes (MOMDPs), which enables the robot to infer the information about the child and control task execution autonomously. On the protocol level, we use the standard Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP) model which enables the robot to choose tasks of the protocol autonomously and combine observations from tasks into a final assessment of a child’s behavior.

NAO robot demonstrates frog jumping gestures to the child

Preparing the robots for a session at the Child Communication Research Laboratory

Clinical trials are performed at the Child Communication Research Laboratory, which is located at the Croatian Institute for Brain Research. During various development stages, more than 50 children have been introduced to the robot. Fifteen of them (7 developing typically, 8 with ASD) were a part of the latest study which showed that, given perfect observations of social cues, our robots are capable of identifying the behavior of the child.

Project partners:

  1. University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (HR)
  2. University of Zagreb, Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences (HR)

Article on robot-assisted ASD...

The results of work done by LARICS researcher Dr. sc. Frano Petric and his coauthors on autism disorder observation with a robot evaluator have been published in the International Journal of Humanoid Robotics (World Scientific) in the article entitled “POMDP-Based Coding of Child–Robot Interaction within a Robot-Assisted ASD Diagnostic Protocol”. The existing procedures for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis are often time consuming and tiresome both for highly-trained human evaluators and children, which may be alleviated by using humanoid robots in the diagnostic process. Hence, this paper proposes a framework for robot-assisted ASD evaluation based on partially observable Markov decision process (POMDP) modeling, specifically POMDPs with mixed observability (MOMDPs). POMDP is broadly used for modeling optimal sequential decision-making tasks under uncertainty. The article is accessible at the following IJHR link.

Author: Anamarija Miličević
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