Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire are to embark on a five-year study looking into how robots can help children with autism.
A research team, led by Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, first designed the KASPAR (Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics) humanoid robot in 2005.
It has been used as a therapeutic and educational tool for children with autism to encourage social interaction.
The robots are capable of arm gestures and speech, and connectivity to a Wii remote control enables the robot to play computer games or drum.
The robot has been used in a trial of 50 children with autism, which Professor Dautenhahn said had produced remarkable results for some of the children involved.
“Parents and teachers are amazed at the transformation in children’s behaviour – some seeing the children make eye contact, seek to share experiences or mimic actions for the first time when playing with KASPAR.”
She said the field results were “over and above” what they had expected, and the research team was hugely encouraged by the interest shown from autism experts, as well as teachers and parents.
The team was now looking to extend the project’s scope and move closer to commercialisation of the robot.
“Our next goal is to build many more KASPARs, ideally over 30, and to undertake a five-year, larger evaluation study, working with around 200 children.”
The robot is also one of the three platforms involved in the European Roboskin project, which aims to develop new sensor technologies that can provide tactile feedback.
Professor Dautenhahn said involvement in this project represented a bright future for the robot, and commercialisation was needed to make the robot widely available.
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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