Home Alone: Social Robots for Digital Ethnography of Toddler Behavior

Mohsen Malmir, Deborah Forster, Kendall Youngstrom, Lydia Morrison, Javier R. Movellan; The IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) Workshops, 2013, pp. 762-768


We describe the results of a field study in which the social robot RUBI-5, was left alone for a 28 day period to interact autonomosly with 16 toddlers at an Early Childhood Education Center. The study is part of the RUBI project, which started in 2004 with the goal of exploring the potential of social robotics for research and enrichment of early childhood education environments. As part of the 28 day field study, RUBY-5 collected data about the facial expressions, activities, and spatio-temporal proximity of the toddlers. We found that RUBI-5 could use the facial expression data to accurately predict the children's preference for different activities: on average, robot agreed with human judges as much (Pearson Correlation = 0.67) as human judges agreed with each other (Pearson Correlation = 0.68). In addition, RUBI discovered some useful aspects of the social structure of the toddler's group. The study is an important milestone in social robotics, both for the length of time the robot could interact autonomously with children, and for the richness of the data that it provided. The results indicate that social robots have the potential to act as low cost, autonomous "digital ethnographers" in a manner that may revolutionize the science and technology of early childhood education.

Related Material

author = {Malmir, Mohsen and Forster, Deborah and Youngstrom, Kendall and Morrison, Lydia and Movellan, Javier R.},
title = {Home Alone: Social Robots for Digital Ethnography of Toddler Behavior},
booktitle = {The IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) Workshops},
month = {June},
year = {2013}