IROMEC   Project Status  

Project Status

Work done so far:

The project started with an in-depth assessment of particular user needs. Two rounds of user panels in five different countries – Austria, UK, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain – were performed. The first user panel round was used for a more general exploration of the topic – the second user panel round was based on a structured analysis of user needs. The outcome of the two rounds of user panels gives a good indication about the play activities for which robot toys could be of added value, as well as of wishes considering robot toys, connected to the target groups. Based on the outcomes of the user panels, a set of specifications and concepts has been elaborated in order to guide through the realisation phase planned for project year 2. A collection of user-centered play scenarios has been worked out – based also on experimental work, literature review as well as on previous experience from the IROMEC partners. Furthermore, one document describing the general robot concept with special emphasis on interaction and interfaces as well as one document describing the core robot system and its functionalities have been worked so far. This “Robotic System Definition Report” aims for a transfer of the results from the previous project phases into a technical concept for a modular and versatile robot system. Beside of description of robot functionality and design, this deliverable also deals with aspects of safety and reliability.Finally, a study dealing with “Critical Factors” involved in robot mediated playing activities of children with disabilities has been performed and documented. Such factors, that deserve consideration in planning, developing and carrying out robot mediated education and rehabilitation activities addressed to children with disabilities, have been clustered around five main headings:1. Factors related to Play2. Factors related to the Individual3. Factors related to the Context4. Factors related to Technology and Robotics5. Factors related to Methodology


Based on the work from the first project year, main outcome of project year 2 was the finalisation of the IROMEC scenarios. The elaborated play scenarios have been confirmed in another User Panel round (UP3) – findings from UP3 also led to a priorization of the scenarios into a "Top-10" list and a second list of scenarios with lower implementation priority. For completion of the IROMEC scenarios the addressed therapeutic and educational objectives have been described by using the ICF classification.
For the next development step, the design of both the core robot system as well as of the application module(s) have been completed based on the IROMEC scenarios. Two operational modes for the robot system have been defined – in the "horizontal configuration" the application module is being attached to the mobile platform, in the "vertical configuration" the application module is being used “stand-alone". All scenarios using robot movement are in "horizontal configuration"; "vertical configuration" is being used for play scenarios like "Imitation Game". A detailed design guideline for user interaction (module) has been worked out and first prototypes have been developed. Functionality for the mobile (core) platform has been refined based on the scenario description and a first prototype of the robot has been developed. A detailed HAZOP analysis has been performed as part of the RAMSS activities in order to ensure safety and reliability. Prototypes for both the robot system as well as the application platform are under preparation. The general system concept has been worked out and is currently under implementation. In the meantime, the mobile platform as well as other key components could be successfully evaluated in different setups. In using this pre-prototype also some selected scenarios could be evaluated in a first round.
For the "IROMEC Framework" a first draft for "Guidelines for using robots to support the play of children with disabilities" has been worked out. It is based on the research included in D5.1 and it represents a concrete use of the Critical Factors checklist and concept map. A dedicated form has been created as a particular application of the general framework in order to be compiled by clinicians and teachers involved in the experimental trials with the help of instructions.
For evaluation a basic framework has been developed and concepts have been worked out in order to “fill” this framework. Evaluation will take place in three phases: “Phase A” for technical evaluation and toy safety, “Phase B” for evaluation of scenario soundness, usability and playfulness, and “Phase 3” for evaluation of educational/therapeutic impact. Another round of User Panels (UP4) has been performed in order to investigate evaluation methods used in current praxis in order to setup a dedicated evaluation methodology for IROMEC.
Several presentations and publications have been performed in order to disseminate IROMEC accordingly. Both, the “Technology Implementation Plan” (TIP) as well as the Market Research have been updated in PrM18 and PrM24 according to the Work Plan.

The following pictures show some examples for the user trials with the robot pre-prototypes:

The third and final project year has been dedicated to completion of both the IROMEC robot prototype and the IROMEC Framework.

A first prototype with the aforementioned configuration has been realized by end of 2008 and has been used for a first series of user trials during the first 6 months of 2009. The trials were taking place in Austria, Italy, Netherlands, UK and Spain and have shown very positive feedback. The following pictures show some snapshots from the user trials at Waldschule (Wiener Neustadt, Austria).



Based on the evaluation results a next re-design process has started in order to finalize the structure and the functionality of the IROMEC robot system. For exampe the head position and orientation in „horizontal configuration“ has changed in order to give the robot a more „animal-like“ appearance. Also the main interaction module – the graphical user interface on the main LCD screen – has been re-designed significantly. Finally, we also have designed and integrated different removable elements in order to individualize the robot on demand. One example for such a removable module is the „lateral add-on“ with special light effects. The following picture shows the final robot prototype.


For completion of the IROMEC Framework, the play scenarios outlined in the second project year have been extenden with a mapping to educational and therapeutic objectives according to the structure from ICF-CY. In addition guidelines for set-up and efficient use of a robot setup like the one from IROMEC project can be used in the most efficient way. Finally the Framework also includes guidelines for evaluation of the educational/therapeutic impact a robot like IROMEC can be realize as well as a software environment for evaluation („EVA Tool“). The public part of the Final Report from IROMEC project can be downloaded HERE.