Autism Spectrum Disorder impacts an ever-increasing number of children. The disorder is marked by social functioning that is characterized by impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors, failure to develop appropriate peer relationships and lack of social and emotional exchanges. Providing early intervention through the modality of play therapy has been effective in improving behavioral and social outcomes for children with autism. Interacting with humanoid robots that provide simple emotional response and interaction has been shown to improve the communication skills of autistic children. In particular, early intervention and continuous care provide significantly better outcomes. Currently, there are no robots capable of meeting these requirements that are both low-cost and available to families of autistic children for in-home use. This paper proposes the piloting the use of robotics as an improved diagnostic and early intervention tool for autistic children that is affordable, non-threatening, durable, and capable of interacting with an autistic child. This robot has the ability to track the child with its 3 degree of freedom (DOF) eyes and 3-DOF head, open and close its 1-DOF beak and 1-DOF each eyelids, raise its 1-DOF each wings, play sound, and record sound. These attributes will give it the ability to be used for the diagnosis and treatment of autism. As part of this project, the robot and the electronic and control software have been developed, and integrating semi-autonomous interaction, teleoperation from a remote healthcare provider and initiating trials with children in a local clinic are in progress.
I'd really like one that is sturdy and could move on grass so I could send my kids out in the backyard to play with it.
(Yes, I know, it'll probably cost tens of thousands of dollars, but a girl can dream, can't she?)
Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2011 Aug;2011:5319-22.
An affordable compact humanoid robot for autism spectrum disorder interventions in children.
Dickstein-Fischer L, Alexander E, Yan X, Su H, Harrington K, Fischer GS.