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Use of low cost personal robots for the encouragement, demonstration and assessment of physical activities

Nandhabiwat, Thitipong (2011) Use of low cost personal robots for the encouragement, demonstration and assessment of physical activities. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      One of the biggest challenges today is the issue of an overweight population. The issue is expected to impose tremendous pressure on the economic and financial health of a nation. The problem is now affecting developed and developing countries alike. In countries such as the USA and Australia, it has been reported that over 50% of the adult population are now either overweight or obese and the situation is expected to get worse. In developing countries like China, India and Thailand, similar problem is also emerging and in particular among the younger generation who has been exposed to wide varieties of processed or “junk” food. Apart from dietary and genetic reasons, the root cause of the weight problem is lacking of physical activities. With the increasing choices of indoor entertainment and transport facilities, in particular private cars, adult and children are now on average burning less daily calories while consuming more food loaded with high levels of sugar and fat. One way to combat the issue is to encourage more physical activities through games or exercises. However, this could be a two-edged sword as injuries have been reported due to inappropriate practices of exercises such as yoga without the advice of formal trainers or instructors. Hence, it is the aim of this study to investigate and develop low cost personal robots for the encouragement, demonstration and assessment of physical activities, with an objective to improve the overall health of the population. Most robotic researches so far have yet to focus on the low-cost off the- shelf robots. This research is therefore one of the few that focuses on this category of robots. This study also investigates the opportunities and potential with the low-cost off-the-shelf robots and how to develop them beyond their default capability. This research has illustrated the feasibility of using low cost personal robots as a supplement to help or assist people of all ages in various kinds of physical exercises during their leisure time in a home environment. In this study, Thai school children have been motivated to learn or practice traditional Thai dances with the robots. This is not just for the sake of physical activities, but it also helps to preserve the culture and traditions among the future generation in Thailand.

      The initial phase of the research has been a literature review on the backgrounds of robots, robotic applications, and human-robot interaction (HRI) as an emerged discipline. The thesis also describes two low cost robots, the WowWee Robosapien Media and the Speecys SPC-101C, used in this research. The research has demonstrated on their use as a trainer for the purposes of education, entertainment and training. Four categories of routines including Thai dance, yoga, cheerleading dance, and exercises for the elderly have been used as examples of physical exercises. Discussion on dance robots, entertainment robots and Thai dances have also been covered in this thesis.

      Another finding of the research is a demonstration of the assessment of a human subject’s movements by a robot. While most people are trained or learn from human trainers, this approach has its limitations due to cost and the number of trainees at any one time. While it is possible to learn from media such as television, Internet, CD or DVD, the trainees will not be able to get any feedback or assistance and this has been the main cause of the injuries. The study proves that a robot is capable to provide demonstration in three dimension as well as providing feedback, it can also be used to assess the movements of the human subject through image or video processing and measurement. In this project, customized software has been developed to control the robot and two web cameras have been used to provide monitoring and capturing of the human movements for assessment and feedback.

      Outcome from this study has demonstrated that the two low-cost off-the-shelf humanoid robots used in this research are capable of assisting and enhancing the performance, enjoyment, and motivation of the participants through interactive activities with the robots. The performance of the participants attended the training session was positively improved through training and the improvement is demonstrated through pre-test and post-test assessments. In this thesis, detailed results of the study are reported and future research works are also discussed.

      Publication Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Information Technology
      Supervisor: Fung, Lance and Wong, Kevin
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/5864
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