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Social Assistive Robotics (SAR) Lab


​​​​Current Projects

Development of a socially assistive robot for children with cerebral palsy that stimulates purposeful movement, vocalization, causality, cognition, and motor development.

Team: Michael Marquez (Bioengineering Master's student), Niki Clark (Bioengineering Doctoral student), Dr. Cathy Bodine, Dr. Levin Sliker, Brian Burne, James Sandstrum, Dr. Regan Zane​

Play is​ an essential component of child development. It provides infants and toddlers opportunities to increase their understanding of themselves and the world around them through the mastery of physical, cognitive, language, and social skills. Thus enhancing their sense of autonomy, self-confidence and achievement of critical developmental milestones. Unfortunately, children with disabilities or developmental delays cannot always access the same opportunities as other children. As a result, children with disabilities often do not develop skills and abilities as well or as easily as their peers.  Despite the substantial efforts of caregivers and clinicians, attempts to engage these children in play is suboptimal. Caregivers lack clinical expertise, and clinicians work with limited sessions. Therefore there is a need for increased early intervention with children with neurological and motor impairments to supplement existing therapies.

The aim of this effort is to develop a Social Assistive Robot (SAR) as a clinical tool to provide long term and intense intervention for children with disabilities or developmental delays through play. During the past decade, a growing body of research has focused on Socially Assistive Robotics; primarily in the areas of autism therapy and early education.  However, pilot studies suggest that this application of SARs to the neurodevelopmental spectrum is very promising. This effort will build on two previous versions of interactive robots (mimic and remote controlled) to incorporate autonomous play. Autonomous operation and strategic and targeted play is complex task that will be pursued in a tiered approach including: mechanical, electrical, response, stimulation, targeted routine development, and clinical evaluation. These areas will be developed in parallel by a team of engineers, then tested independently and as an integrated system.​

Development of the many SAR features is occurring in parallel. This tiered platform approach allows several students to collaborate together and with clinicians congruently.





Previous​​ Work

Two robots wer​e developed to begin the process of designing a Socially Assistive Robot.  Both were intended to serve as a proof of concept and indicate the potential of SAR therapy for children with disabilities.




The Mimic Robot (left) utilizes Microsoft's Open Source Software for the Kinect to mo​nitor patients with the vision system, and mimic their arm gestures in response.






) is a remote controlled robot with basic mobility and audio capabilities.  This tool that is perceived to be autonomous, was developed specifically to assess the potential of SAR use in a clinical setting.  While the trials are in progress, early results are positive and significant.​



Wireless Power Transfer

Socially Interactive Robots (SIR) have many applications in rehabilitation, including psychological development of children with autism, children with complex neuro-developmental motor impairments, adults with dementia, etc. The animal-shaped or toy-shaped SIR should help engaging such individuals in physical and communication interaction, while any human presence during such sessions is typically counterproductive. A particularly critical moment is recharging or replacing of robot batteries, since that is typically done by adults, but also because it includes removing the animal-like cover and revealing the real nature of the object. Thus, there is a strong need for a total autonomy of SIRs, and it is wireless power transfer (WPT) that can make charging of such robots autonomous without human intervention. In this research, a complete WPT charging system is designed for recharging of an m3Pi robot, which includes primary pow​er conversion units; transmitter and receiver compensation circuits, coils and magnetic couplers; as well as a regulated charging converter at the robot side. The best engineering practice is employed to design this WPT as a fully controlled and autonomous wireless recharging system for robots. It includes: optimized couplers and resonant circuits to provide maximum efficiency and satisfy safety standards while transferring a specified amount of power; a four-loop regulated system capable of controlling the primary dc voltage and coil current, as well as implementing regulated constant-current constant voltage (CCCV) battery charging algorithm; wireless communication modules for synchronization and coordination of the primary and secondary converters. In this paper​, the most important analytical, simulation and experimental results are presented.​


​Prospective Students

​There are many exciting projects available in the SAR lab. Send a resume and cover letter to Dr. Cathy Bodine if you would like to work in the SAR lab.