A Socially Assistive Robot Exercise Coach for the Elderly

Juan Fasola, Maja Mataric


We present a socially assistive robot (SAR) system designed to engage elderly users in physical exercise. We discuss the system approach, design methodology, and implementation details, which incorporate insights from psychology research on intrinsic motivation, and we present five clear design principles for SAR-based therapeutic interventions. We then describe the system evaluation, consisting of a multi-session user study with older adults (n = 33), to evaluate the effectiveness of our SAR exercise system and to investigate the role of embodiment by comparing user evaluations of similar physically and virtually embodied coaches. The results validate the system approach and effectiveness at motivating physical exercise in older adults according to a variety of user performance and outcomes measures. The results also show a clear preference by older adults for the physically embodied robot coach over the virtual coach in terms of enjoyableness, helpfulness, and social attraction, among other factors.


Human-robot interaction, socially assistive robotics, exercise, elderly, intrinsic motivation, embodiment

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