BACKGROUND: Rapid technological development has been opening new possibilities for children with disabilities. In particular, robots can enable and create new opportunities in therapy, rehabilitation, education, or leisure. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this article is to share experiences, challenges and learned lessons by the authors, all of them with experience conducting research in the field of robotics for children with disabilities, and to propose future directions for research and development. METHODS: The article is the result of several consensus meetings to establish future research priorities in this field. RESULTS: Robots have a huge potential to support children with disabilities: they can play the role of a play buddy, of a mediator when interacting with other children or adults, they can promote social interaction, and transfer children from the role of a spectator of the surrounding world to the role of an active participant. To fulfill their potential, robots have to be 'smart', stable and reliable, easy to use and program, and give the just-right amount of support adapted to the needs of the child. Interdisciplinary collaboration combined with user centered design is necessary to make robotic applications successful. Furthermore, real-life contexts to test and implement robotic interventions are essential to refine them according to real needs. CONCLUSIONS: This article outlines a research agenda for the future of robotics in childcare and supports the establishment of R4C - Robots for Children, a network of experts aimed at sharing ideas, promoting innovative research, and developing good practices on the use of robots for children with disabilities.
- Child development
- Child wellbeing
- Children with disabilities
- Robotic assistive technologies
- Social robots