The New Face of Autism TherapyBy Mone, Gregory; Popular Science,
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Article describes the development of a robot used for teaching interactive social skills to children with autism spectrum disorder. Bandit, part of a research initiative at the University of Southern California to build robots sympathetic and sensitive enough to serve as both therapists and playmates to autistic children, is described as a humanoid robot of small stature with a playful face featuring silvery eyes and moveable, rubber-covered lips, compact arms with bulging triceps, and a torso mounted on a base stacked with a Linux computer, speakers, a router, batteries, and an electric motor to drive the wheeled legs. Bandit was programmed to approach a child and attempt to engage him or her in play through simple facial expressions and movements, and uses infrared tracking to locate the child. Experiments conducted with the robot and autistic children revealed that participants on the high end of the autism spectrum were more vocal when the robot was in the room and also engaged their parent in the interaction, whereas some of the lower-functioning children rejected the robot. Work to improve the functioning of Bandit reported includes adding the ability to understand speech and to make complex decisions in response to a child’s behavior. Also considered is the incorporation of sensor wristbands into the child-robot therapy sessions to record movement, temperature, and perspiration; these wristbands, developed by an electrical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, could pick up hidden psychological cues and inform the robot if the child is getting anxious.
Published by: Time, Incorporated (Website:http://www.timewarner.com/corp/businesses/detail/time_inc/index.html)
Link to text: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-05/humanoid-robots-are-new-therapists