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Robot helps children interact

30th May 2007

Autistic children could be helped to understand social skills and interact with people by a robot, Kaspar.

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Dr Ben Robins, from the University of Hertfordshire, describes Kaspar as "a child-sized robot with minimum facial expressions, can move its arms and legs and allows the child to interact with it." The robot is being used as part of a study taking place at schools in Hertfordshire.

Dr Robins stated that past research has proved that "very plain robots" had been accepted by children. The research will focus on how a robot can assist children with learning difficulties to learn and interact socially.

Kaspar's face behaves in a human fashion, with blinking eyelids and a turning, nodding head. The robot will respond to stimuli and will act surprised at unexpected movements.
It is believed some of the children may benefit from this in the development of their own social skills.

Dr Robins describes the robot as a "mediator" for human interaction.

He said: "We are seeing already that through interacting with the robot, children who would not normally mix are becoming interested in getting involved with other children and humans in general."

Scientist think although people provide the "best models for human social behaviour," their behaviour can be complex and erratic. The robot offers children a more straightforward example of human social skills. Dr Robins commented: "Many children with autism are however interested in playing with mechanical toys or computers."




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