Improvements in healthcare have led to an increase in life expectancy. There is a moral obligation to keep this aging population healthy and active. Research shows that robots can play a vital role in motivating users to perform regular exercise and physical therapy.
With this in mind, we have developed eight human-robot exercise games for Max, our Baxter Research Robot (developed by Rethink Robotics): six of these games involve some form of physical interaction with the robot, and two involve performing movements as directed by the robot. These games were developed with the input and guidance of experts in game design, therapy and rehabilitation. The games were employed in a user study conducted at the Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania in order to test their viability. Our subject group included 20 younger and 20 older adult users.
Participants of both age groups were willing to enter Baxter's workspace and physically interact with the robot through these games. There was a significant increase in user trust and confidence in Baxter after participating in the experiment. Our results show potential for the use of bimanual humanoid robots for social-physical interaction in exercise.