Socially Assistive Robots for Older Adults and People with Autism: An Overview

Socially Assistive Robots for Older Adults and People with Autism: An Overview

Table of Contents


Over one billion people in the world suffer from some form of disability. Nevertheless, according to the World Health Organization, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to deficiencies in services, such as health care, rehabilitation, support, and assistance. In this sense, recent technological developments can mitigate these deficiencies, offering less-expensive assistive systems to meet users’ needs. This paper reviews and summarizes the research efforts toward the development of these kinds of systems, focusing on two social groups: older adults and children with autism.


robotics, healthcare, disability, assistive technology, socially assistive robotics


According to the World Health Organization (WHO) [1], one in seven people experiences disability to some extent. However, only half can afford the required healthcare services [1]. This is especially critical when a person’s quality of life diminishes and their independence is reduced. In this context, technological advances can play an important role, since they may enable people with disabilities to receive the healthcare necessary to lead a fulfilling life and be independent [2].

A review of the literature reveals the enormous variety of assistive technology currently available. Given the wide ranges of types and levels of deficiency, assistive technology can be classified depending on its complexity. Three concentric spheres of assistive technology can be defined with the user at their center. These are (from the inside to the outside): embodied assistive technology, assistive environments, and assistive robots. Embodied assistive technology includes mobility devices [3,4] (e.g., wheelchairs, prostheses, exoskeletons, or artificial limbs); specialized aids (e.g., hearing [5], vision [6–8], cognition [9], or communication [10]); and specific hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities with accessing information technologies (e.g., computers and mobile devices). Although these systems provide valued help, they usually offer just one functionality and lack much intelligence (intelligence being understood as the ability to receive feedback from the environment and adapt their behavior).

Going a step further, the environment can be adapted to the user’s needs, with sensors and actuators, such as cameras or domotic systems, such that more functionalities are covered and more information about the user’s health status can be gathered and processed, providing this technology with intelligence. Along those lines, we can find smart homes [11], virtual assistants [12–14] and ambient assisted living (AAL) settings [15–17]. Nevertheless, this kind of technology fails to support independent life when the user has chronic or degenerative limitations in motor and/or cognitive abilities.

As a solution, assistive robotics (AR) emerged. Its main goal is to fruitfully promote the well-being and independence of persons with disabilities. Robots may assist people in a wide range of tasks at home (especially in terms of activities for daily living), and so ongoing research includes household robots [18–20] and rehabilitation robots [21,22], among others. In the case of assistive robots, interdisciplinarity is required to achieve the final goal, integrating research areas such as artificial intelligence, human-robot interaction, and machine learning techniques, among others. Thus, motivated by the current societal needs of the particular risk groups (i.e., children and older adults), this paper reviews and summarizes the promising and challenging research on assistive robotics aimed at helping older persons and children with autism to perform their daily tasks.


Socioeconomic changes and the lack of healthcare professionals to cover the unceasing demand of services and care have led to the need for technological solutions to mitigate this situation. In addition to intelligently interacting with the environment, the techniques developed must be successfully adopted by users. In this sense, neuroscientific evidence shows that users, especially children, tend to engage with robots better than traditional screens and their design must make the user feel comfortable and increase their well-being. As a consequence, the scientific response to these issues is assistive robotics, and more precisely, socially assistive robotics, which integrates a human-robot interaction in a social way.

This paper presents an overview of the state-of-the-art SAR solutions for helping and assisting older adults in their daily activities, such as activity scheduling and rehabilitation; and for helping children with autism spectrum disorders by means of diagnosis and social therapies. These solutions benefit from new advances in artificial intelligence, as these increase the autonomy levels of assistance robots, allowing them to adapt to unforeseen circumstances without the direct intervention of a human. Thus, the advent of SAR along with AI can help users with their day-to-day living, promoting their daily functioning, well-being, and independence. Despite the active development in (social) assistive technology, there is still work to be done. Indeed, the current solutions do not provide ideal solutions to all needs of people with disabilities, but the results are highly promising.

About KSRA

The Kavian Scientific Research Association (KSRA) is a non-profit research organization to provide research / educational services in December 2013. The members of the community had formed a virtual group on the Viber social network. The core of the Kavian Scientific Association was formed with these members as founders. These individuals, led by Professor Siavosh Kaviani, decided to launch a scientific / research association with an emphasis on education.

KSRA research association, as a non-profit research firm, is committed to providing research services in the field of knowledge. The main beneficiaries of this association are public or private knowledge-based companies, students, researchers, researchers, professors, universities, and industrial and semi-industrial centers around the world.

Our main services Based on Education for all Spectrum people in the world. We want to make an integration between researches and educations. We believe education is the main right of Human beings. So our services should be concentrated on inclusive education.

The KSRA team partners with local under-served communities around the world to improve the access to and quality of knowledge based on education, amplify and augment learning programs where they exist, and create new opportunities for e-learning where traditional education systems are lacking or non-existent.

FULL Paper PDF file:

Socially Assistive Robots for Older Adults and People with Autism: An Overview



Ester Martinez-Martin, Felix Escalona, Miguel Cazorla




Socially Assistive Robots for Older Adults and People with Autism: An Overview

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Electronics — Open Access Journal


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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.

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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.

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Somayeh Nosrati was born in 1982 in Tehran. She holds a Master's degree in artificial intelligence from Khatam University of Tehran.