"This is the first real world test of whether intelligent adaptive systems can make an impact on ASD," said team member Zachary Warren who directs the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) at Vanderbilt's Kennedy Center.
The initial impetus for the project came from Vanderbilt Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Engineering Nilanjan Sarkar. His original research involved the development of systems to improve the man-machine interface. He did so by outfitting computer/robot users with biosensors and analyzing variations in various readings like blood pressure and skin response to evaluate their emotional state. The information was used to program computers and robots to respond accordingly.
Six years ago, when visiting his cousin in India, Sarkar learned that his cousin's son had been diagnosed with ASD. "After I learned something about autism, it occurred to me that my research could be valuable for treating ASD," he said.
At the time, several experiments had been conducted that suggested young children, in general, and young children with ASD, in particular, found robots especially appealing. "We knew that this gave us an advantage, but we had to figure out how to leverage it to improve the children's social skills," Sarkar said.
"You can't just drop a robot down in front of a child and expect it to work," added Warren. "You must develop a sophisticated adaptive structure around the robot before it will work."
To develop this structure, which they named ARIA (Adaptive Robot-Mediated Intervention Architecture), Sarkar and Warren assembled a team that consists of Esubalew Bekele, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer engineering, Uttama Lahiri, a graduate student in mechanical engineering and who is currently an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar, Amy Swanson, a project m
|Contact: David Salisbury|