Create new human-artificial agent interactions through the concept of similarity in order to enhance social competence

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Enhancing socio-motor interactions using information technology



Social pathologies, including schizophrenia, autism and social phobia, are mainly characterized by difficulties in interaction with others. This causes much suffering both for the patients and those that around them. The AlterEgo European project (2013-2016) aims to develop and test an innovative rehabilitation method to improve such relational deficits, using humanoid Robotics and virtual reality. The project is rooted on a new transdisciplinary theory coming from movement neuroscience and cognitive science: the theory of similarity. This theory suggests that it is easier to socially interact with someone who looks like us. This resemblance can be morphological (form of a person), behavioural (his actions), or kinematic (the way he moves). In the AlterEgo project, an avatar (virtual agent) and a humanoid robot (European iCub robot) will be used to manipulate these three components of the similarity in real time situations of social interaction between patients and the artificial agent. A new method of rehabilitation will thus be tested, to improve social interactions in patients suffering from the pathology.

The AlterEgo project is one of the 17 (250 referrals) winners of the call for European projects FP7 ICT 2.9 - Cognitive Sciences and Robotics - launched in 2012 by the European commission. It will be coordinated by the EuroMov centre (Movement & Health unit) of the University of Montpellier 1 (Pr. B. Bardy) and apart from the Montpellier human movement specialists, will involve computer specialists (centre DFKI, Germany), mathematicians (University of Bristol, University of Exeter, UK), roboticists (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, CH), as well as clinicians, psychologists and psychiatrists from the Hospital of Montpellier (CHRU). With a grant of EUR 2.9 million, the project is started since Feb 1st 2013.