Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Robots Help Autistic Children

Robots built to help autistic childrenAn effective therapist might just be metallic, mechanical and nonhuman.

FROM: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-autism-robots-20111017,0,5798122.story
"Robots aren't known for their soft side. They build cars and defuse bombs; they don't, as a rule, make friends or deal with feelings. But a few groups of researchers around the world are working to build robots for an unusual purpose: Making emotional connections with autistic children who often struggle to interact with humans.

There's something about machines that really seems to resonate with many kids with autism, says Maja Mataric, co-director of the Robotics Research Lab at
USC. These children often have trouble reading human emotions and social cues — complexities they don't have to worry about when they're around a mechanical being.
"Robots are simpler than people," Mataric says.

Still, robots may seem like unlikely candidates for a job usually filled by therapists. As Mataric points out, the general public usually thinks of robots as either cold and efficient workers (at their best) or outright evil beings bent on enslaving humanity (at their worst).

The researchers at USC have a different vision. "We're trying to create something that's endearing," Mataric says.

The result: Bandit, a metallic-colored, child-sized robot that can win the attention — and even empathy — of hard-to-reach kids.

Bandit has a pleasant, inviting face with a movable mouth, archable eyebrows and camera eyes that let him "watch" his playmates. He also has proximity sensors to gauge whether kids are backing away or moving in. If they get too close, he can wheel away.

With his motor-driven arms, Bandit can automatically mimic the motions of children and lead a game of Simon Says. He can make sad sighs or happy chips, and he blows bubbles with the push of a button. He can also talk in soothing tones, although USC researches are just beginning to use Bandit's speech in their work with children with autism..."

Read the full article at its source: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-autism-robots-20111017,0,5798122.story

No comments:

Post a Comment