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A Theoretical and Qualitative Approach to Evaluating Children’s Robot-Mediated Levels of Presence.


Each year, 2.5 million children in the US are homebound due to illness (NHIS, 2016; US Census Bureau, 2016). This paper explores the possible implications of being homebound for child development and well-being, drawing on Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory  of human development and Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory. This paper also explores the potential role of robotic avatars and robot-mediated presence to provide homebound children with more appropriate developmental experiences. To better understand their robot-mediated developmental experiences, what is known about human development and human psychology in organic environments (i.e., bioecological systems theory, self-determination theory) is synthesized with concepts of presence theory from virtual environments. These theoretical supports form the foundation of a framework to evaluate the robot-mediated presence of homebound children. Findings from the first systematic, multi-case study on the robot-mediated presence of homebound children in schools provide empirical data to inform three identified levels of presence: co-present, cooperating, collaborating. This framework provides a first step to consistent evaluation of robot-mediated presence and engagement for this population. Understanding the social contexts and developmental needs of homebound children and how they can be achieved via robotic avatars will aid in developing more effective interventions for improved social supports and technological systems.

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