Robots Helping Kids Awarded NSF Grant

Robots Helping KidsThe National Science Foundation's (NSF) recently announced four new "Expeditions in Computing" awards and we are proud to announce Willow Garage's involvement in one of the winning awards. The NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) has awarded $10 million in funding over five years in support of Making Socially Assistive Robots, also known as Robots Helping Kids. This initiative will be developing the techniques that will enable the design, implementation, and evaluation of robots that encourage social, emotional and cognitive growth in children.

For example, clinicians and families struggle to provide individualized educational services to children with social and cognitive deficits; a group whose numbers have quadrupled in the U.S. in the last decade alone. In addition, educators struggle at many schools to provide language instruction for children raised in homes where a language other than English is spoken, the fastest-growing segment of the school-age population.

Robots Helping Kids aims to support the individual needs of children with socially assistive robots that help to guide the children toward long-term behavioral goals that are customized to the particular needs of each child and that develop and change as the child does.

Needless to say, socially assistive robots have the potential to substantially impact the effectiveness of education and healthcare for children. This initiative includes strong education and training elements, especially for K-12 students in this target population, and for undergraduates via an annual training summit.

The Lead Principal Investigator for this initiative is Brian Scassellati from Yale University who is joined by Co-PIs Maja Matarić of USC and Cynthia Breazeal from MIT. A host of other individuals are also involved from Stanford University, Tufts University, and Yale University. Leila Takayama leads Willow Garage's involvement. Dr. Takayama will partner with Stanford University's Clifford Nass in the evaluation of the initiative. Their responsibility is determining the efficacy of the methods and systems for generating insights into human social abilities via these robotic systems. 

Willow Garage would like to congratulate not only our partners in the Robots Helping Kids initiative, but all of the NSF award recipients. A complete list of the recipients is listed at the NSF Web site.