Communication Robots can help kids with Autism?

Technology Contributor
Today's Focus
communication robots
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Unlike what fantasy-script writers in the 70’s imagined the future in robotics to be like, humanoid robots such as WALL-E or the Star-Wars favorite C-3PO, despite being charmingly clumsy and loveable, for now sadly aren’t a very useful application for Artificial intelligence.

Now although we won’t be able to fully impersonate Luke Skywalker, walking around with his infamous crew of epic side-kicks, we aren’t necessarily too far from the potential of living in his reality. The main problem of this type of robot, however, seems to currently be centered around the unreasonable amount of money needed to conceive it, in return for mediocre cognitive abilities and motor skills.

Quite recently, however, scientists discovered an unexpectedly effective application of communicating humanoid robots in the field of children’s education. More specifically, in the case of children suffering from illnesses like autism or other socially impairing disabilities.

Communication Robots and play of words

For children in these conditions, it is often difficult to adapt to communicating with real humans. Even playing with kids their age is often an environment too unstable for them. The human element of unpredictability, paired with the task of simultaneously deciphering words, body language, and facial expression can easily lead to confusing these children.

The robot, on the other hand, presents a much simpler palette of emotions that the children are easily able to relate to. Their predictability, accompanied by slower movements and words helps the children feel more at ease. Moreover, it helps stimulate their focus and lengthen their attention span in class. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be taught by a robot when they were in primary school? That’s like having everyday interviews with a tiny Iron man!

Adopting this new technology

Several primary schools have already begun actively adopting this new technology and effectively putting it to use in the sectors for kids with learning difficulties. In an interview from one of these primary schools, the director pointed out that two of the kids in the autism-specific group have already been able to smoothly transition into the mainstream class section.

Generally, primary schools have reported solid results from children engaging with the communication robots in fun patterns of exercise and various activities and puzzles. Communication robots help children gain self-confidence and undeniably positive results in the field of social interaction. But how much would one of these eventually set you back?

For now, the Nao autonomous communication robot, most frequently used in primary schools, goes for around ± $8,000. The company is currently working on dropping the prices as much as possible. As for the rest of the market, robots with similar functionality usually range from $1,000 – $20,000, with more or less developed cognitive abilities.

Japan is advancing towards communication robots

Now again, the field of the appliance for communication robots, in general, isn’t extremely vast, but they do successfully serve their purpose in assisting the elderly in various situations, helping tourists by providing guiding programs, as well as appearing here and there in certain spheres of entertainment.

Chances are, we won’t see any real cutting-edge application for communication robots in the nearest time. Our technology in the field is still too embryonic to be able to replace proper work-posts with these robots, however, Japan has begun developing some very promising models which you might enjoy.

Models that might actually make a difference in the field, but certainly not in the nearest five years. If you’re curious about other fascinating technological advancements, stay tuned for more!


(Written by Hussein Al-Bahir)

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