Assessing affective response of older users to a telepresence robot using a combination of psychophysiological measures

Tiberio, L., Cesta, A., Cortellessa, G., Padua, L., and Pellegrino, A. R.

In IEEE RO-MAN 2012: The 21st IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication. pp. 833-838, IEEE, 2012

Telepresence robots can become a beneficial tool in home care assistance and rehabilitation services by helping elderly people to remain in their homes longer. They can represent an additional means to assist older adults and facilitate social interaction by creating a support network through which nursing staff and family members can collaborate. This article describes a feasibility study relatively to the use of such robots in the interaction with elderly people affected by Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). The paper aims at assessing the psychophysiological response of such users to the presence of the robotic platform in order to use it as an indication of the level of tolerance toward the platform. To this purpose, we have involved 9 healthy and 8 MCI older adults in the participation of an experimental study where they have been asked to perform repeated interactions with and without the telepresence robot. We based our analysis on a combination of psychological tests to assess anxiety, positive/negative effects of the interaction with the robot, and we performed physiological measurements (heart rate and heart rate variability) to obtain an objective measure of the actual psychological state. Results seem to suggest that the robot presence is satisfactorily tolerated by MCI and that it does not cause adverse effects in term of cardiovascular response, thus encouraging further investigation on telepresence robots for rehabilitation and care experimental studies.