Interactive robot trains kids with autism
A humanoid robot shows promise for teaching a basic social skill called joint attention to children with autism spectrum disorder.
Aiden, who is three and a half years old, has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). NAO (pronounced “now”) is the diminutive “front man” for an elaborate system of cameras, sensors, and computers designed specifically to help children like Aiden learn how to coordinate their attention with other people and objects in their environment.
Typically developing children learn joint attention naturally. Children with autism, however, have difficulty mastering it and that inability can compound into a variety of learning difficulties as they age.
Mechanical engineers and autism experts have developed the system and used it to demonstrate that robotic systems may be powerful tools for enhancing the basic social learning skills of children with ASD.
Writing in the March issue of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, the researchers report that children with ASD paid more attention to the robot and followed its instructions almost as well as they did those of a human therapist in standard exercises used to develop joint attention skill. The finding indicates that robots could play a crucial role in responding to the “public health emergency” that has been created by the rapid growth in the number of children being diagnosed with ASD. (via Futurity.org – Interactive robot trains kids with autism)