Robot that helps autistic kids play


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GB United Kingdom
Web http://kaspar.feis.herts.ac.uk/


About the project Edit

KASPAR is a child-sized humanoid robot developed by the Adaptive Systems Research Group, a team of researchers at the University of Hertfordshire's School of Computer Science in the U.K. KASPAR is being used to study human-robot interaction as part of the European RobotCub Project, which aims to build an open-source robot platform for cognitive development research. Autistic children, by spending time with Kaspar, are learning to develop play skills, which researchers hope will help them interact with others and develop socially.

The project's aim and, in particular, Kaspar -- an acronym for Kinesics and Synchronization in Personal Assistant Robotics -- is to investigate how robotic toys can become social "mediators" for human contact, helping autistic children interact with other children and adults, according to university researcher Ben Robins. Kaspar performs basic actions like smiling or waving, which appeal to autistic children because the actions are simple and predictable, according to Robins. "Autistic children react in a more social way to toys that are simple in appearance and design than they do to people," he said. "They like familiarity and repetitional behavior."

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Kaspar is an innovative way to increase social behavior by autistic children. Robins and his colleagues believe that Kaspar can help bridge the gap between the stable and consistent environment of a simple toy and the potentially unpredictable world of human contact and learning.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The Kaspar project acknowledges the important role of play in child development and targets children who are prevented from playing, either due to cognitive, developmental or physical impairments which affect their playing skills, investigating how robotic toys can empower them to discover the range of play styles from solitary to social and cooperative play.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The team of researchers is testing it in special-education schools in the UK region. Their research is part of the Interactive Robotic Social Mediators as Companions (IROMEC) project, which is funded by the European Union and besides the U.K. has participating organizations in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France.

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