Patricc: A Platform for Triadic Interaction with Changeable Characters
From IEEE Xplore
Social robots are slowly being integrated into our daily lives, in work spaces , educational systems  and our homes . Social robots for education are blooming, with applications ranging from language  to science . Most of these educational applications of social robots target children , starting from preschool , through elementary  and adolescence . Few studies have been conducted with toddlers, ages 1-4 years, and those were conducted either in an educational settings with groups of toddlers , or were teleoperated . In this contribution we focus on social robots for toddlers, which are a unique target group, with special HRI-related requirements.
Mode of interaction - The common educational mode of interaction with social robots are one-on-one, i.e. a single robot interacting with a single child [17, 26]. Several studies have reported on a more traditional frontal teaching mode  and addressing the challenge of small group activities have only been reported recently [21, 32]. However, one-on-one with a robot is rarely an option for toddlers, and group activities can only be applied in the private educational system. The most common social scenario for toddlers is interaction with their caregiver, e.g. parent, yet to the best of our knowledge, no study has addressed a toddler-parent-robot interaction.
Physical interaction - Toddlers’ renowned exploration and inquisitiveness extend to the tactile modality. Few social robotic platforms have integrated physical props as a mode of interaction for
Long-term interaction - The holy grail of educational social robots is long term effective interaction [6, 20]. Toddlers, with a much shorter attention span, create an even greater challenge in this aspect. While personalization of content  and social behavior  has been studied and implemented, the importance of large amount of content and continuous novelty cannot be overstated [20, 33]. Generation of HRI-appropriate content requires both pedagogical foundations and robot behavior variability .
While easy-to-use interfaces and programming languages have been developed for HRI [8, 31], fluent, generic and versatile tool for non-programmers are scarce .
Here we present Patricc, a PlAtform for TRiadic Interaction with Changeable Characters. Its main features are:
(i) a 3D-printed uppertorso skeleton, with changeable puppet-like characters;
(ii) an accompanying platform for physical educational props and;
(iii) easy integration of content via an authoring tool for non-programmers.
Furthermore, during the interaction the toddler’s parent is taken into consideration to both facilitate smoother interaction and enable emotional and social support.
We conducted an evaluation study, in which we chose English as a Second Language (ESL) as the educational content. We used our authoring tool to easily integrate novel robotic behaviors with sound pedagogical activities, supported by content-appropriate props. 18 pairs of parents and toddlers interacted with Patricc. We performed quantitative and qualitative analyses of the interaction, and compared it to similar activities performed with a tablet.
The paper’s main contributions are:
(i) a novel robotic platform designed for toddler-parent-robot interaction;
(ii) a novel authoring tool for non-programmers to introduce content and behaviors and;
(iii) an evaluation study with the platform.