In the past ‘child’s play’ has often been neglected in comparison to educational objectives such as developing mathematical or language skills. However, state of the art research emphasises the important role of play in children’s development, a crucial vehicle to learn about themselves, the environment, and to develop social relationships. IROMEC targets children who are prevented from playing, either due to cognitive or multiple impairments which affect their playing skills, leading to general impairments in their learning potential and more specifically resulting in social isolation from the social environment, including family members and peers. The underlying assumption is that providing tailored means to encourage play using a robotic toy will break down barriers for development through play, fostering individual development up the person’s potential. A clearly user-centred perspective will focus on the needs and requirements of the user groups. IROMEC will conduct research into how robotic toys can be tailored towards becoming social mediators, empowering children with disabilities to play and discover the range of play styles from solitary to social and cooperative play.
The project is a new and highly interdisciplinary initiative combining robotics, ICT and other disciplines like cognitive sciences, developmental psychology, pedagogy, human-machine interface and others in order to open a dedicated possibility for “information technologies” to meet societal demands.