Autism can build a wall of poor communication between those struggling with the condition and their families. While a personal computer can help bridge the divide, the distraction and complexity of a keyboard can be an insurmountable obstacle. Using a unique keyboard with only two "keys" and a novel curriculum, teachers with Project Blue Skies are giving children with autism the ability to both communicate and to explore the online world. Read more in this news release.
Credit: Blue Orb
The Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport (CBET) Systems of the Directorate for Engineering supports research and education in the rapidly evolving fields of bioengineering and environmental engineering and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal or mechanical means.
Preliminary studies by researchers at the University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering, studying interactions of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) with bubble-blowing robots confirm what has been widely reported: In many cases, ASD children interact more easily with mechanical devices than humans.
November 18, 2013
Humanoid robot "Russell" engages children with autism
The robot teaches learning skills to autistic children and gauges their response in real time
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), mechanical and computer engineer Nilanjan Sarkar and psychologist Zachary Warren of Vanderbilt University have developed a learning environment for kids with autism, built around state-of-the-art technologies. Many children with autism have an affinity for technology.
"Children with autism spectrum disorders show early impairments in social interaction and social communication. They understand the physical world much better than the social world," explains Sarkar.
One of those state-of-the-art technologies is a humanoid robot, nicknamed "Russell," who works with the children on their ability to imitate others. It is a skill that is important for learning.
The robot has some of the characteristics of a human, but it's not as complex, so it doesn't overstimulate or overwhelm a child with autism. The room where the robot interacts with the children is outfitted with cameras and a video gaming sensor that tracks and records the child's movements. That information is sent wirelessly to the robot to provide feedback. That way, the robot can understand how well the child is performing, and even how well he or she is enjoying the activity.
"Engineering researchers are investigating new designs that allow robots to interact easily and work cooperatively with humans," says Ted Conway, program director in the NSF Directorate for Engineering. "The success of these 'co-robots' requires intelligent human-robotic performance that can adapt to a variety of applications."
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1264462 for "Individualized Adaptive Robot-Mediated Intervention Architecture for Autism."
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.