Robot Tutor for Children with Autism

robots helping autism

A Texas-based company called RoboKind has recently developed an innovative teaching tool geared towards children with Autism.

It is a 22-inch tall robot named Milo with cool, spiky hair, wide-eyes and a child-like voice. He is equipped with a video screen, sensors, cameras, and facial recognition software to evaluate the child’s responses and progress. They hope to help children with expressing empathy, self-motivation, and how to navigate social situations.

Two iPads are used, one for the student and one for the (human) instructor, to carry out each lesson. It is dependent upon the instructor whether they move on to next part or if they re-do the lesson. Throughout the entire session Milo is monitoring and recording data such as eye contact, speed and accuracy of answers, and frustration and interest levels. Lessons are also structured around particular social situations such as every day greetings, birthday party behavior, interpreting expressions, predicting others’ feelings, and how to be a good friend.

At the moment, Milo is being distributed regionally and used within private homes, treatment centers, therapy clinics, and schools. There are also some that are being tested for research in American and European universities.

One may think it is an odd approach to therapy, a robot teaching human emotions? It doesn’t make much sense. However, researches have found that children who are on the autism spectrum tend to respond better to technology rather than people. It is somewhat similar to when animals (such as dogs and horses) are used for therapy treatment. The Milo robots are different methods that help to achieve goals.

However, the company makes it very clear they are not replacing the traditional human therapist. Their goal is to create a new tool in which aides the therapists as part of their treatment plan. We all know that children with Autism can fall anywhere within the spectrum. So their therapies, as well, can be varied. The company states that the robot is best used for children who have the following skills: picture symbol recognition, ability to answer yes/no questions, ability to understand cause and effect, and the ability to use a tablet to communicate.

By Raiza Belarmino