One of the benefits of the varied physical forms of SARs is that many specific physical features and functions can be manipulated e.g. facial design, voice pitch and speech style; to increase impression of sociability and likability in the robot and presumably, facilitate positive and productive human-robot interactions.
SARs create exciting opportunities for robots to be designed in service of specific roles and functions for mental health care. Flexibility encourages robots to be used with diverse clinical populations, in a variety of clinical settings, and in a wide range of clinical functions.
SAR is a new field but it has already found some applications in mental healthcare. The research is relatively small with methodological approaches. But even with these limitations, it has already been conducted in a variety of mental health concerns (e.g. dementia, depressed mood and ASD) with a diverse group of patients (e.g. young children and elderly).
Companion is one of the more commonly employed functions. These function in a way that is similar to a trained therapy animal. Because of the concerns of bringing live animals into clinical settings Companion SARs may become the solution to these concerns. A wide range of pet-like robots currently exist but most of the work has focused on Paro, a robot designed to look like a baby harp seal, and Aibo a small robotic dog.
The Studies done with these robots suggest two important findings:
- First, SARs can be integrated into treatment settings (e.g., hospitals and long-term care facilities) for use with clinical populations.
- Second, there appears to be positive clinical outcomes associated with the use of robots.
Information collected from Integrating socially assistive robotics into mental healthcare interventions: Applications and recommendations for expanded use – by Sarah Rabbitt, Alan Kazdin and Brian Scassellati.