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Humanoid robot helps train children with autism
Date:3/20/2013

ctiveness of the robot-based system and human therapists in joint attention training with a dozen 2- to 5-year old children, six with ASD and a control group of six typically-developing children. They alternated short human-led and robot-led training sessions and compared how the children performed.

The test found that the children in both groups spent more time looking at the robot than they spent looking at the human therapist. During the human-led sessions, the children in the control group spent significantly more time watching the therapist than the children with ASD did. In the robot-led sessions, however, both groups spent about the same amount of time looking at the robot.

"The children's engagement with the robot was excellent," Crittendon said, "and we saw improvements across the board in both groups."

One of the key elements of ARIA is its closed loop design. The robot adapts its behavior to each child automatically depending on how he or she is responding. "There is a saying in the field, 'If you've seen one child with ASD, you've seen one child with ASD.' So one size does not fit all. To be useful, the system must be adaptive," Warren said.

In addition, ARIA is not designed to replace human therapists, who are in short supply, but to leverage their efforts. "A therapist does many things that robots can't do," said Sarkar. "But a robot-centered system could provide much of the repeated practice that is essential to learning. The cost of robotic systems like this will continue to come down in the future so it should easily pay for itself by supplementing human intervention."

Warren hopes that robotic systems can act as an "accelerant technology" that actually increases the rate at which children with ASD learn the social skills that they need. Encouraged by the success of this current study, Sarkar and Warren have started developing robot-mediated autism intervention systems that will address other deficits of
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Contact: David Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

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